“Caste Hindus adopt obstructionist tactics”
A Dalit woman village panchayat president in Erode district has lodged complaints with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the district administration, alleging caste-based discrimination by the vice-president of the panchayat and a district panchayat vice-chairperson.
Valli Deivanai (42), president of Pasuvapatti village panchayat in Chennimalai block, claimed that she faced discrimination right from the day her candidature was announced. After she won the elections, she was not allowed to occupy the chair allotted for the elected president.
Lack of cooperation
“Caste Hindus in the village are refusing to co-operate in the administration of the local body. They are adopting obstructionist tactics in the implementation of development works and causing hurdles during the selection of beneficiaries for different welfare programmes,” she alleged in her petition.
Ms. Deivanai claimed that the vice-president of the panchayat P. Mohanasundaram and District Panchayat vice-chairperson Manimekalai thwarted her efforts to work effectively.
“At the instigation of caste Hindus, the procedures to apply for old age pension (OAP) were bypassed and many ineligible persons recommended for the benefit. As a result, I refused to sign in many OAP application forms.”
The District Panchayat vice-chairperson herself signed and recommended more than 20 ineligible applicants for OAP, she alleged. She also claimed that panchayat clerk R. Suguna was transferred as she had refused to co-operate with Ms. Manimekalai and her supporters.
The panchayat president appealed to the government to ensure legal and administrative safeguards and guarantees enshrined in the Constitution. She wanted the district administration to intervene immediately and provide non-discriminatory and atrocity-free environment, enabling her to function effectively in the panchayat.
Ms. Manimekalai and Mr. Mohanasundaram denied the allegations. “The allegations are totally baseless and politically motivated. Since we both belong to AIADMK, the woman panchayat president, who belongs to DMK, is trying to tarnish our reputation in the village,” Ms. Manimekalai claimed.
Collector V.K. Shanmugam said that the district administration was yet to receive a representation from the panchayat president.
“We will, however, conduct an inquiry immediately” he said.