Himachal all set to empower rural women

Saturday, December 25, 2010

SHIMLA - Himachal Pradesh is all set to empower women at the grassroots level by electing only women to around 13,000 seats in panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), the village-level third tier of governance.

The Himachal Pradesh government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, in 2008 raised reservation of seats for women in all rural and urban civic bodies from 33 percent to 50 percent and it is for the first time that the elections to the panchayati posts are being held under the enhanced quota.

State Election Commission chairman Dev Swarup told IANS that polling for 3,195 panchayats, 75 panchayat samitis and 11 zila parishads (district executives) would be held Dec 28, Dec 30 and Jan 1, 2011.

“The elections will be held for around 27,000 seats and 50 percent reservation means almost half of the seats would be occupied by women candidates only,” he said.

According to him, each panchayat has one post each of ‘pradhan’ or president and ‘up-pradhan’ or vice-president and five to 21 posts of ‘panch’ or ward members, depending upon the population of the panchayat. Only the post of ‘up-pradhan’ is not reserved.

As many as 3,195 panchayat presidents and vice-presidents, 19,159 panch, 1,651 block samiti members and 240 zila parishad members will be elected.

Besides reservation for women, there is also a provision of 15 percent reservation each for the Other Backward Classes and the Scheduled Castes. In both the cases, there is also a quota within the quota for women.

Interestingly, the districts with odd number of panchayats will see women getting extra seats.

Swarup said 1,598 panchayats out of the total 3,195 would be governed by the fairer sex.

“It’s the initiative of the state government to be fair with the fairer sex. The aim is to hand over the rural power to women as they are more sensitive to the local issues,” BJP state coordinator for panchayat elections H.N. Kashyap said.

A remote Kamru village in Kalpa block of Kinnaur district has unanimously elected an all-woman panchayat.

The panchayat has 1,100 voters - mostly tribals.

“It was the unanimous decision of all the voters to have an all-woman panchayat,” newly-elected president Sunila Negi said.

Social activist Rattan Manjari, who is again contesting the elections as an independent zila parishad member from the Pooh block in Kinnaur district, said: “It was a path-breaking decision to empower rural women.”

About 19,000 polling booths will be set up for 46.11 lakh voters, who include 2,332,121 men and 2,278,881 women.

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