Dalit panchayat chiefs face discrimination: report


Fact-finding team reveals its findings

“Panchayat clerks who are mostly from dominant castes act as de facto presidents”

“Violence had also been unleashed on

the presidents”

MADURAI: Panchayat presidents belonging to Dalit communities and women in particular are still being discriminated against and it includes practices of untouchability in many forms, denial of rights and non-cooperation from dominant castes, a fact-finding report has revealed.

A fact-finding team, which investigated the challenges, discriminations and violence faced by Dalit panchayat presidents of Sivaganga district, released a report containing its findings here on Wednesday.

The findings reveal that the meaning of grass root democracy and local governance is still at large for the elected Dalit representatives.

The team had met panchayat presidents of Poyyalur, Nenchanur, Namanur, Arasanoor, Thanjakoor, Kanur, O. Pudur, Chinnakannur, Tirukolakudi Kalayarkoil and T. Alangulam. According to the findings, dominant caste are selecting or nominating the candidates in many of the panchayats reserved for Dalits.

A few allegations include compulsion to sign blank cheques without giving details of their utilisation; non-cooperation of dominant caste members in panchayat councils; prevention of Dalit presidents from passing resolutions and denial of access to panchayat records, account books and registers.

Panchayat clerks who are mostly from dominant castes act as de facto presidents without giving them the necessary space to function independently. During meetings, Dalit presidents were allowed to sit on the floor and not on the chair. It was also found that ‘Makkal Nala Paniyalargal’ of Tirukolakudi in Tiruppattur panchayat citing “untouchability and questions of honour” had refused to receive money from Dalit presidents and asked them to bring it to their homes.

Violence had also been unleashed on the presidents who resisted. The Alangulam panchayat president, Nenjattur panchayat president and Thanjakkur panchayat president, along with his family members, were attacked.

All these incidents were of recent past and no cases had been registered so far under the relevant provisions of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The recommendations made by the team include a direction to the District Collectors to periodically review the functioning of panchayats and participate in the meetings. The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be implemented in letter and spirit. Adequate protection should be given to presidents who faced threat.

Sivaganga district has 445 panchayats out of which 85 are reserved for Dalits. Out of the 85, 33 panchayats have Dalit women as presidents.

The team comprised members from Tamil Nadu Federation of Women Presidents of Panchayat Government, Dalit Panchayat Presidents Federation of Tamil Nadu and Panchayat Presidents Coordinated Federation- Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Tamil Nadu NGO Alliance for Empowering Panchayats and Human Rights Foundation.

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