Out of the 9,622 village panchayat presidents elected in 27 districts across Tamil Nadu, 5,421 are women and 1,817 are aged between 21 and 35, according to a report released by the Tiruppur-based Institute of Grassroots Governance (IGG).
An organisation working to strengthen grassroots democracy, the IGG was started by the alumni of the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Sriperumbudur. The report, ‘Analysis on Demographic status of Elected Village Panchayat Presidents in Tamil Nadu 2020’, was released on Tuesday to mark the International Day of Democracy. It analyses the representation of different age groups and compares the gender representation among the elected village panchayat presidents out of the 91,920 elected representatives of the rural local bodies in 27 districts.
As the rural local bodies elections are yet to be held for the reconstituted districts of Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Vellore, Tirupattur, Ranipet, Villupuram, Kallakuruchi, Tirunelveli and Tenkasi, the report looks at the village panchayat presidents of the 27 districts. These districts include the erstwhile Nagapattinam district where the rural local bodies elections were held prior to its bifurcation and formation of Mayiladuthurai district in April this year.
With around 56.34% (5,421 out of 9,622) of the panchayat presidents being women, the representation of women has increased by around 17% (excluding the nine districts) as only 4,884 out of 12,524 (around 38.99%) village panchayat presidents were women in the 2011 local bodies elections. While female representation is dominant in the age groups of 21-35 and 36-50, male representation is dominant in the categories of 51-60 years and 61 years and above among the village panchayat presidents, the report said.
As for youth representation, 1,817 out of 9,622 panchayat presidents fall in the age group of 21-35, which is around 18.88%. Out of the 1,817 youth panchayat presidents, 1,440 were women and 377 were men.
K.G. Inbarasan, general secretary and research wing coordinator of the IGG, told The Hindu that while the representation of women is high among panchayat presidents, only 166 out of the 5,421 women panchayat presidents were found to be below 29 years of age and holding a degree. “We are trying to identify their needs and conduct training programmes for them...,” he said.
The State government must increase the honorarium given to panchayat presidents — ₹1,000 a month — to encourage more youth to contest in the local bodies elections, he said.
The State government must also issue standard operating procedures to conduct the gram sabha in all village panchayats as it remains suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When people come together to discuss, they will identify the priority areas,” Mr. Inbarasan said, adding that grama sabhas must be considered as important as Assembly sessions.