Special Correspondent

But no economic empowerment in the absence of devolution of finances

  • 37% of elected representatives in panchayati raj institutions are women
  • Ministry will review panchayats

    NEW DELHI: India has more women in positions of elective authority than in the rest of the world put together, thanks to the 73rd Amendment providing for 33 per cent reservation in panchayats, Minister for Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

    He was replying to a discussion on the `Report on the State of the Panchayats A Mid-Term Review and Appraisal, 2006.

    Billing panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) as an "ineluctable, irremovable and irreversible" part of the Indian system, Mr. Aiyar said it was hugely successful in politically empowering women and the marginal sections of society. Now 37 per cent of the elected representatives in PRIs were women and 31 per cent, either from the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes. The Minister's reference to women's empowerment saw Left members raise the issue of extending the 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and the State legislatures, but the House settled down to hearing him out as he repeatedly quoted from interventions made by members during the discussion.

    Admitting that political and social empowerment resulting from the participation of women and marginalised sections in panchayats had not translated into administrative and economic empowerment in the absence of devolution of finances, Mr. Aiyar said: "Money is there, what are lacking are instruments of governance."

    He urged members to impress upon their State Governments to provide support for having district plans in place. "Planning Commission is with us, but we need State Governments to support the effort to prepare district plans."

    Listing the steps being taken to empower PRIs, by facilitating their participation in the implementation of Centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs), the Minister said there was only so much the Centre could do on a State subject. The Planning Commission was trying to rationalise many of the CSSs and the PRIs' role would be classified in the process.