It is time for the Panchayat bodies to go for the polls. This once in five-year event actually is the grass root level exercise with elections being held for each ward. The panch member is elected who eventually decides the Sarpanch and decides how Panchayat bodies should work.
The role of Panchayat bodies has attained utmost importance. It is these bodies which run the government at grass root level. It is unfortunate that the legislators are increasingly interfering in the working of the Panchayats. The actual essence of panchayat is ‘power to the people’.
The system of ‘gram sabhas,’ Panchayat meetings and several other initiatives make our Indian democracy successful. It is not just the elections for Parliament or state Legislative Assembly that highlights our rich tradition of democracy. But the average person becoming panch member and he deciding the developmental directions for the village is the most interesting part of the democracy.
The concept of gram sabha was also worked out to ensure that the voter gets chance to be a part of the decision making. There might not be unanimity in the decision making but certainly there won’t be monopoly.
Now, when such a fantastic concept of democracy is being followed in the state, there are gross problems which can also be seen. The kind of things that have unfolded as a prelude to the oncoming Panchayat polls, the entire process of giving power to grass root level seems to be undone.
This time around, total reservation is touching almost 40 percent which includes the exclusive seats for OBC, ST, Women and now scheduled caste (SC) too. The notification of these reserved wards has already been issued.
First and foremost, it is undemocratic that despite state election commission being in place, the state government is involved in the process of reserving the wards. Actually, it should be the work of state election commission.
Moreover, the way wards are reserved clearly indicates that the political powers play a major role in that. I have an example of a ward in St Cruz Panchayat which was last time reserved for women, this time it is reserve for OBC. This means, a person in general category who wants to contest here can’t do it for ten years. And you never know, next election, it may be reserved for some other category. The ward is reserved for OBC despite the fact that there is no much population belonging to that category.
This entirely means, the general person cannot think of being part of Panchayat in this ward. This is largely undoing of the democracy. When it comes to Panchayat election, the reservation fuelled by aspirations of politicians is something dangerous to our grass root level democracy.
Is there any scientific base for reservations? There are agencies which are expert in doing scientific surveys for reservations. They should be roped in and they should recommend to the state government which wards should be reserved. Obviously, reservation should be dependent on the population in that ward. Or else the person from outside ward wins the poll and he represents those people in the Panchayat.
The power should be with the people. But actually, the state government dictates to the people what they want to do. That is why each legislator boasts of having control over maximum Panchayats. That is the indication of how they have been meddling with the election process.
Manohar Parrikar-led government which brags of Goen, Goenkar and Goenkarponn was expected to be more practical during the reservation of wards. But Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho in private concedes that he was unaware about the entire process.
It is understood why the old rot of unplanned reservation of wards continues this time too. With BJP losing its grounds during recently held Assembly election and new parties emerging in, there will be rat race to have control over the Panchayats. Don’t be surprised if at the end of elections, BJP comes up with the tally of how many Panchayats they have hold over. The entire gamut is a power game. The power play at the cost of our grass-root level democracy.
It is too late to speak about reservations. The candidates are ready to face elections. There are several aspirants who will have to wait for another five years to get their turn. Now at least the political parties should show some wisdom and not interfere in the election process. There should a rule that if legislators are found campaigning for any candidate they should be disqualified. The presence of MLA in the panchayat election will not give level playing field for the rival candidates.
Let the grass-root level democracy flourish. Let there be real elections. Let our panchayats be real stories of success.