Govt orders 33 pc reservations for women in Sarpanch seats

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Jan 14:  In some significant decisions ahead of Panchayat elections, the Government has ordered 33 per cent reservation for women in 4098 posts of Sarpanchs and directed rotation of Wards reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women in 29,402 Panch segments. It has asked the authorities to immediately complete the process for identification of Sarpanch segments to be reserved for women and rotate reserved Wards in Panch constituencies before the Government makes formal announcement of the elections.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the Government has conveyed its decision to the State Election Commission (SEC) and Rural Development Department (RDD) authorities and asked them to identify 33 per cent posts of Sarpanchs in the Panchayats for women candidates for the upcoming election, which the Government wanted to hold in March-April this year.
The Government decision would reserve 1366 posts of Sarpanchs in a total of 4098 Panchayats exclusively for the women, a decision aimed at empowering the women right from the grass root level.
Though there will be no reservation for SCs and STs for the posts of Sarpanchs, the two communities would continue to get reservation based as per their population in 29,402 Panch segments. The women already have 33 per cent reservation in Panch constituencies.
As per the enactment of new legislation, there will be no direct election of Sarpanchs. The Panchs will elect new Sarpanch of their Panchayat from within themselves. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shantmanu, who has been designated as the State Election Commission for the Panchayat elections and the Rural Development Department, which deals with the Panchayats, have set into motion the exercise to identify 33 per cent posts of Sarpanchs in the Panchayats to be reserved for women.
When approached for comments, sources said the exercise has been set into motion to identify 33 per cent Sarpanch posts in the Panchayats for women and rotate reserved Wards in Panch segments for women, SCs and STs.
“We hope to complete the exercise soon. The Rural Development Department is also engaged in the exercise,” they added.
Sources said the Panch segments reserved for women, SCs and STs in 2011 elections would be rotated. Out of 29,402 Panch segments, 33 per cent are reserved for women while SC and ST categories get reservations as per their population.
In another significant decision, the Government has also conceded the demand of local people for rationalization of Panch constituencies.
“It will not be a delimitation of Panch constituencies, which consumes lot of time. The Government has decided to go for rationalization of Panch segments only. As per the rationalization process, population of some villages have represented before the Rural Development Department and other authorities for shifting their village from one Panchayat to another,” sources said, adding all these representations are being looked into and will be considered on merit.
“Whatever is required to be done on rationalization of Panch constituencies will be done within the next few days,” sources said and pointed out that earlier this power (rationalization of Panchayat constituencies) lied with the Government i.e. the Rural Development Department but now this power has been vested with the CEO J&K following an Ordinance issued by the Governor on the request of the State Government.
There are a total of 4098 Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, which comprised 29,402 Panch segments including 15,767 in Kashmir division (Ladakh included) and 13,635 in Jammu division for which the election would be held.
With Government doing away with direct election of Sarpanchs through an Act of legislation, the elected Panchs would now elect the Sarpanch of their Panchayat from within the elected Panch through the election. However, 33 per cent Sarpanchs would be the women.
The Panchayat elections were scheduled to be held in April-May last year. However, as the elections were not held, the Panchayats completed their five year tenure in June last year and since then there were no Sarpanchs and Panchs. With Government now proposing to hold the Panchayat elections by the end of March, the Panchayats were expected to be in place during the month of May again.