Freeze reservations in panchayats, says experts panel

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Reservations for women, scheduled castes/tribals (SC/STs) and other backward classes (OBCs) in panchayat raj institutions should be frozen for two or three terms so that they get the same opportunity as MPs and legislators to augment experience and knowledge, says an experts committee.

The existing deficiencies in effective panchayat raj are compounded by the rotation of reserved seats at every successive election, according to an Experts Committee on Leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for the More Effective Delivery of Public Goods and Services, headed by former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

“This not only robs Panchayat Raj of experienced elected representatives, it also leaves little or no incentive for elected representatives to do a good job because they will not, in all likelihood, be able to stand again at the next round of elections,” states the report to be released April 24, the national Panchayat Raj Day.

The committee further noted that the more effective the processes of devolution are, the more meaningful is panchayat raj.

“The more involved are the members, the more lively is the Gram Sabha and the less nefarious the nexus between the lower bureaucracy and the Panchayat members,” says the report.

According to the committee, since all states show some progress in panchayat raj over time, if the accent were to change from didactically seeking better panchayat raj to incentivising it, both the political will to promote this institution might grow stronger and the electoral rewards of grassroots empowerment would become more obvious.

It observes that in the absence of an effective empowerment, the political system sees little electoral advantage to pursuing panchayat raj beyond the imperatives of constitutional compliance.

“The paucity of outcomes has also resulted in very little demand for panchayat raj at the grassroots,” it says.

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