“RESERVATIONS FOR WOMEN IN LOCAL BODIES”
Dr. K. SOMASEKHAR
M.A., Ph.D, M.L., Ph.D., LL.D
Lecturer in History
Dr. V.S. Krishna Govt. Degree & P.G. College (Autonomous)
Email ID: [email protected]
Mobile number: 9177966950, 9154142990.
Process for emancipation of women has been initiated by the British Government. But the leaders of Bhakthi movement had started the efforts for the uplifment of women during the medieval period. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Eswarchandra Vidya Sagar, Maharshi D.K. Karve have done yomen service for the emancipation of women community. Fortunately Montague Chelms Ford reforms have initiated the reservation policy for women. The communal award of 1932 has provided proper reservations for women. The fundamental rights of the Constitution of India have supported the reservations for women particularly the Articles 15 and 16. During 1970s the feminist movement has been launched in India with the inspiration of the women conferences and human rights for women guaranteed at world level. The Government of India was forced to provide 33% reservation in the field of education and employment.
This reservation policy has been adopted by all the state governments and applied the same to the political field. Now the state governments have provided political reservations for women in the local bodies after the implementation of 73rd amendment. According to this amendment 33% reservations have been provided to women. Later these reservations have been increased to 50%. Half of the members of village Panchayats, Mandal Parishads and Zilla Parishads should be from among the women community. For last 20 years women are fighting for political reservations in both state legislatures and Parliament. Bill to provide 33% reservations to women has been initiated. But the bill has been pending before the Parliament. All these issues would be highlighted in my full text paper.
The issues of women have been given top priority by upholding the right to equality conferred upon them by Constitution of India. The right to equality provides equal reservations to the women along with other vulnerable sections. Keeping in view of these statements and other objectives present study has been made by the researcher.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:
- To focus on the need to provide reservations to women.
- To lay emphasis on the circumstances reading to provide 33% reservations for women in local bodies.
- To focus on the present position of women reservation in local bodies.
- To bring out consequences after the implementation of the reservations for women.
The researcher has adopted doctrinaire method to complete the present study. Researcher has consulted several G.Os issued by the Government pertaining to the reservation from time to time. The researcher has consulted the views put forwarded by several political experts pertaining to the women reservations.
Women are being considered as vulnerable section. The wome organizations have pressed the government to provide 33% reservation in all democratic bodies. The 73rd amendment has authorized the government to provide 33% reservation for women. The government has provided 33% reservation and later extended 50%. On the basis of these conclusions present study has been made.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY:
Reservations for women are a burning issue. 33% reservations for women in legislature and Parliament is still pending with the Parliament. The bill is facing several hurdles for its passage. Of course, women are successful in getting reservations in the local bodies. Till the passage of the reservation bill in the Parliament, the issue will remain significance in the field of Indian politics.
THEME OF THE PAPER:
Since the women are backward in Indian society due to lack of political economic and social benefits. So the women have to raise their voice regarding their problems in the legislatures and local bodies. For this purpose the Government of India decided that women should be given reservations to fight for the equal opportunities including political power. Women’s participation in local bodies is appreciated by the present day political society. Their representation in the politics is necessary as their number is less in the representative bodies.
The participation of women in the Panchayat Raj institutions, which were considered to be the most effective instruments for realizing the goals of economic betterment and social justice for the least privileged, was felt essential. The CSWI (Society for Children and Women in India) report suggested the establishment of all-women panchayats at village level, with autonomy and resources of their own for the management and administration of welfare and development programmes for women and children, as a transitional measure to break through the traditional attitudes that inhibit most women in articulating their problems or participating actively in the local bodies.
Active involvement of women in Panchayat Raj institutions has been recognized as a step towards equality. The Committee on the Panchayati Raj institutions, 1978 recommended the reservation of two seats for women in panchayats and to co-opt women in case they did not come through elections. It is also suggested that a committee of women be set up within panchayats to operate specific programmes for women and children. Unfortunately, the co-option of two women members in panchayats, has not brought any perceptible impact on women’s participation in the Panchayati Raj bodies. It seemed as if Co-option is done only in letter and not in the spirit of getting the women involved in panchayat activities.
It is widely believed that enhanced representation is likely to remove the isolation of women and give them visibility and strength to be more assertive and to take part in decision-making. The women representation in decision making bodies is very low. There is no uniform law to provide reservations to the women in local bodies. The local body is the subject of state list. Hence the States have a choice to provide reservation to the women in their respective states. Some states have provided 33% reservation to the women in local bodies through the executive order. Some states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal etc., even enhanced the reservation to the women at the local bodies upto 50%. But all the states are making efforts to enhance the reservations to the women in local bodies.
The introduction of ‘Democratic Decentralization’ (democratic decentralization is the division of power between the center, state and local bodies) resulted in the establishment of Panchayat. But in most of the Panchayat Raj legislations enacted by different State Governments, women were to be co-opted under special category. This did not result into the development of village leadership among women and their participation in the decision-making process. In this connection the committee on the Status of Women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions has not been effectively either in articulating women’s needs, or in mobilizing women for adequate participation. Taking note of this fact the Committee on panchayati Raj Institutions recommended: (a) increasing representation of women in these institutions; (b) establishing a special committee of women Panchayat members and powers and funds to ensure that the decisions are made by women themselves in on priorities and choice in welfare and development programmes specifically for women and children; (c) provision of institutional finance and budget support for rural industrialization projects for women, and (d) strengthening the constructive decision-making and managerial roles; (e) Mahila Mandals to ensure full access to development resources and services. The Panchayat Raj System can be regarded as a training centre for the women to participate in the politics. The village is a small unit. Face to face contacts are possible by which the women can understand the feelings and their whims and fancies. As per the interests and disinterests of the people the policies would be made at village. The women can part play in the Grama Sabhas. The women Surpanches have played a vital role in the development of the villages.
It is a matter of pride that the Andhra Pradesh government has implemented the not only 33% reservation and 73rd amendment as per the directions of central government. But also increased the reservation to 50% in 2008 under Article 243-D inserted in the Constitution by 73rd Amendment deals with reservation of seats and political offices for women in PRIs. The main features of Article 243-D are:
¢ One third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in panchayats (Art.243-D(i));
¢ One-third of the total number of seats reserved for women under Cl. (i) shall be reserved for women belonging to SCs & STs (Art.243-D(2));
¢ One third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the Panchayat at each level shall be reserved for women (Art.243-D (4)).
The same procedure has come into force in all four mandals Amadalavalasa, Tekkali, Santhabommali and Seethampeta Mandals which are discussed in the preceding chapters.
The 73rd amendment has confirmed compulsory reservations for women in local bodies. Almost all states have agreed to provide 33% reservation for the women which was enhanced to 50% in the early years of 21st century.
Equally guaranteed was the reservation of women from SC and ST, as the Amendment required that at least one of the women had to be from SC or ST. unlike in the case of SC and ST reservation where the number of reserved constituencies was in accordance with the proportion of population, in case of women, it was simply and uniformly 33.3 per cent. Consequently, wherever elections to PRIs were held after April 1993, wards or constituencies were reserved for women.
Even while this was generally accepted, the delimitation and reservation of the constituencies ran into trouble. In the case of reservation of women constituencies, the general methodology was one of lottery. This, however, worked out at times as neighbouring other reserved constituencies on the basis of SC or ST population, thereby making a long stretch of constituencies not being available for the males of the higher castes. Municipal elections in Delhi as well as Uttar Pradesh elections to PRIs as announced on 20th October 1994 had to be cancelled due to the demand for revision of constituencies and court cases. Obviously, women’s constituencies could be shifted at will; one suspects that those wards or gram panchayats which were causing political inconvenience to the ruling party were reserved for women as members or chairpersons. In Punjab, it was said that the women chairpersons posts were reserved for those panchayat Samitis which had a majority of Akali Dal (Badal) support. The men of the ruling party kept for themselves those panchayats where they had a majority.
Utilizing the provision that not less than one-third seats need to be reserved for women, some States had given a slightly higher quota for women. One has to however, ask whether this was due to recognition of women’s power and contribution to social development of rural India or merely the assumption that women would be easily elected and could be later manipulated by the men, party and the community. In West Bengal, it is particularly interesting to note that in the 1993 Act while more seats were reserved for women as members, no reservation was made for women chairpersonship in any of the three tiers.
In West Bengal, a controversy also arose about the number of constituencies reserved for SC and ST women from among the women constituencies. Out of the total 21,489 seats reserved for women, 24.3 per cent were reserved for SC and ST. At the same time, the proportion of seats reserved for women among SC and ST worked out to almost 53.5 per cent. Thus 36.9 per cent of the total seats reserved for women were for SC and ST women. No wonder some thought that the reservation was twisted in favour of the SC and ST sections. Looked at also from different angles, the proportion of women from SC and ST is comparatively much larger than what it is either among the SC and ST men or women in general.
There was also resentment against women standing for the general wards. Women were sought to be confined only to the reserved posts – an instance of marginalization. Such instances came from many States, creating confusion in women’s minds.
The elections found even political parties like CPI (M) somewhat doubtful about ‘finding’ enough candidates. Many women’s organizations and Government agencies set about mobilizing women, raising their awareness, giving them political education and encouraging them to come forward to stand as candidates when the elections were announced. In West Bengal and Bihar, the State Government itself organized such awareness raising workshops. In Bihar (Dhumra, Dhanbad, Patna, etc.,) Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow, Saharanpur, Benaras), Haryana (Rewari, Faridabad), Himachal Pradesh (Solan), etc., such workshops, discussions, camps were conducted by many voluntary organizations.
The Government too strove to join in this effort. Attempts were made to change the content of the ‘Awareness Generation Programmes’, a scheme of the Central Social Welfare Board, to include a module on Panchayati Raj. The training progammes for village level workers like the Anganwadi workers and crèche workers also included a component on Panchayat Raj and women. The legal literacy camps under the scheme on ‘Prevention of Atrocities against Women’, added on a section on constitutional and political rights of women.
It was a welcome step that many women’s organizations in their eagerness to help the women utilize the opportunity offered by the 73rd Amendment to get into political and decision-making bodies, joined the efforts. One did not find any similar attempts being made for making the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes access such political rights and power effectively. Fortunately, most of the women’s groups by targeting the poor groups among the rural women, could take the message to the low caste or class sections in the rural areas in general.
This, however, raises some very basic questions. What is it that the women lack? Do they lack awareness or political consciousness? With so many elections having taken place since Independence, how much political awareness have the women acquired over the years? The recent elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies have witnessed that the high turnout of women voters had been responsible for the victory of AIADMK led by Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu in 1991 and TDP led by N.T. Rama Rao in Andhra Pradesh in December 1994.
The experience of many organizations which have undertaken such awareness camps is somewhat varies. Most of the women’s organizations have reported a very enthusiastic response from the rural women. Their turnout in large numbers in these meetings clearly disproved the skepticism that women were not interested in politics or were diffident about it. The women themselves seemed to believe that illiteracy or social and customary restrictions were no disqualifications for standing as candidates.
‘Democratic Decentralization’ or panchayati raj as it is popularly known in India, aims at making the democracy real by bringing millions of people into the functioning of their representative government at the grassroots level. The main responsibility of panchayati raj institutions is to accelerate the pace of development and involve all people, both male and female in this process so that the felt needs of the people and their development aspirations are fulfilled. Involvement and participation of women in PRIs is essential for efficient, equitable and sustainable people-centred development. Democracy, governance and gender are therefore interrelated. Democracy is a form of political system, governance is an institution to implement its principles, and gender is a part of governance, to be ensured by equal participation of men and women.
The passage of the Constitutional 73rd Amendment Act 1992 marks a new era in federal democratic set-up of the country and provides Constitutional status to the Panchayati raj institutions. The 73rd Amendment, introduced in 1993, proposed that 30 per cent of government seats be set aside for their as a means of further guaranteeing women’s representation in panchayati raj institutions. Similarly the 74th Amendment introduced the similar reservation for women in municipal council and Municipal Corporation in towns and urban areas. However such affirmative action are lacking at the state and central levels. Almost all states in India have implanted 73rd Amendment and provided 50% reservation in all urban and local bodies.
The Panchayat Raj as a system of self governance was introduced for the first time in 1959 following the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee report that recommended a three-tier structure of local self-government consisting of gram panchayats at the village level, taluka Panchayat samitis at the sub-district level, and Zilla parishads at the district level. The provisions for women in the 73rd Constitutional Amendment are:
– To provide a three-tier system of Panchayat Raj Institution for all states having a population of over 20 lakh.
– To hold Panchayat elections every five years.
– To provide reservations of seats for women, SC and ST not less than 33 per cent.
But recently all states in India including Andhra Pradesh have enhanced women reservation upto 50% though it is not mandatory. In Andhra Pradesh all panchayats have adopted this rule. With this the women participation in the rural politics has been increased.
Maya Majumdar, Protecting our Women, Volume – III, Dominant Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, First Edition 2001.
“Gender Sensitisation for Rural Development Functionaries”, Centre for women Development NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT, Rajendra Nagar: Hyderabad.
R.P. Joshi, Constitution of Panchayat Raj, Rawat Publications, New Delhi.
Dr. J.N. Pandey, The Constitutional Law of India, Published by Allahabad Law Agency, 1999.