New education criteria leave panchayat posts vacant

Updated - February 02, 2015 05:34 am IST

Published - February 02, 2015 12:00 am IST - JAIPUR:

The impact of the amended Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, to include minimum educational qualification as eligibility criteria for contesting the Panchayat elections, is now becoming visible with reports of posts going vacant pouring in from across the State.

Fake documents

Worse, the Sikar police have arrested a gang of people who have reportedly sold fake marks sheets and Transfer Certificates to those aspiring to contest. Investigations have revealed that contestants from Jalore, Barmer, Sikar and Jodhpur have purchased fake certificates from the gang, though the police suspect the number could go into thousands.

In the first two phases of polling, seven posts of sarpanchs are lying vacant and 170 were elected unopposed – a departure from the 2010 elections — purportedly there were no educationally qualified candidates to contest. For Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti’s 5 and 32 candidates respectively have been elected unopposed.

Dadiya Gram Panchayat in Ajmer and Majawada Gram Panchayat in Udaipur were unable to elect sarpanchs because there were no qualified candidates fulfilling the new educational eligibility criteria under the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Ordinance, 2014, promulgated just days before elections for the Panchayati Raj Institutions were announced.

In Bhadu village of Bhilwara, there were two students of Class VIII who were asked to contest but their nominations were rejected because they were below 18 years of age.

At many other places, candidates were elected unopposed because, social activists say, there were no qualified opponents which made the whole exercise of elections futile. Similar reports came in from Chittorgarh as well.

“It is not only the lack of contestants but also the lack of choices which is unhealthy. Not finding an opposition is terrible,” Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) that challenged the Ordinance in the court, told The Hindu .

The Ordinance, which is expected to be ratified in the coming Assembly session because the Bharatiya Janata Party has an absolute majority in the House, makes it mandatory that those contesting for the post of sarpanch should have passed Class VIII exam except in the tribal reserved areas where the qualification is Class V, and Class X for contesting Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti elections.

Though the State Election Commissioner Ram Lubhaya denied having received any such reports, cases of educated people with a non-political background being coerced into contesting are coming in from all districts, as is the number of those elected unopposed.

“The number of contestants as compared to the previous elections has certainly come down this time, and all such details will come out once a survey is done after the election is over. This is the only way to gauge the impact because not every wants to contest the elections in any case,” Mr Dey said.

The Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Ordinance stipulates a pass in Class VIII and Class X for those contesting sarpanch and Zila Parishad elections

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