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Fair deal? Men cornered, women to rule the roost at grassroots

india Updated: Jan 05, 2011 20:44 IST
Archana Phull
Archana Phull
Hindustan Times
Archana Phull

It's a win-win situation for the fairer sex in Himachal Pradesh at the end of polls to Panchayati Raj Institutions. With 50% seats for women reserved in PRIs for the first time, roughly 58-60% women have won seats in the state, marginalizing the men significantly.

In last elections, when 33% seats were reserved for women, the number of elected women had gone upto 38 to 40%.

The State Election Commission (SEC) is in still in the midst of compiling details.

"But it's sure that the number of women elected representatives is higher than the mark of 50," said S C Negi, secretary of SEC.

Inquiries in different districts revealed so.

The state conducted elections to 3195 seats of panchayat presidents, 3195 vice presidents, 19195 ward members, 1651 block development committee members, and 240 zila parishad members last week.

The polls to 14 panchayats in Kinnaur could be conducted on Wednesday due to heavy snow last week.

"Women presence in PRIs will not be less than 60% this time. In case of bodies having higher odd number of wards, the number of reserved seats for women was determined by rounding off on the higher side. This took the number of reserved seats beyond 50%," deputy commissioner, Kangra, R S Gupta told Hindustan Times .

Kullu deputy commissioner, B M Nanta said, "At the time of reservation, it came out to be 58%. The final figure is yet to be arrived."

In Mandi, the reservation went up to 55%.

Some women in the state have made it through open seats too which will take the number of women representatives in PRIs higher.

While this comes as an opportunity for the BJP government in Himachal to take credit, as it was the first government in country to do it in 2008 (immediately as BJP took over reigns this time). The opposition Congress too is welcoming the scenario of "women dominance' in PRIs.

"It will be a training ground for women in the run up to proposed 33% reservation in Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha for them," state Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur said.

"It's a big step towards women empowerment. But it beings greater responsibility on women at the same time. They will have to have grasp of things and perform at the grassroots," Reena, 23, a first timer in zila parishad said.

She is final year student of law in Himachal Pradesh University, and was elected from Anandpur ward in Shimla district.

To Reena awareness about domestic violence, health issues and information on government schemes for people are the top priorities.

The women majority in PRIs has been generally liked by people, and cross section of the men, who have made it to PRIs, but not without apprehensions.

"Women can certainly address issues at grassroots with greater sensitivity. But at the same time PRIs have now assumed a significant role in governance. Women generally can't spare more time from their house chores for this responsibility and they don't have knowledge of procedures and schemes. This part should be seriously taken care of at the onset and trainings should be organised," said Akshay Jasrotia, who was re-elected to zila parishad from Paprola in Kangra district.

Jasrotia, 38, was a student of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi earlier, but left academics to champion the cause of grassroot politics back home.

But is it a crisis of sorts with women making it to PRIs in such great numbers?

"We have had a good experience with the women representatives, when the reservation was
33% for them. There is no reason for apprehension. The elected representatives get a training first, that builds up their capacities, to begin with," said R S Gupta, Kangra DC.

Reservation was similar for elections to urban local bodies in HP (that ended on Saturday) but their numbers are not high enough to make an impact, as compared to the PRIs.