Women representatives will be in charge of more than 250 panchayats in Gujarat because they have won office unopposed with the consent of the electorate, which decided to opt for this path to get government benefits under a scheme.
Deputy rural development commissioner MS Vyas said the number of such all-women panchayats was 20 in the last elections in 2007. Under the “samaras” (unity) scheme, the state government gives rewards to villages where panchayat members are elected with consent so that elections can be avoided. The reward amount is Rs 3 lakh for all-women panchayats in villages having a population below 5,000, and Rs 5 lakh for those with more than 5,000 people.
“This time, only 2,147 villages of the 10,405 villages (20% of the total) have opted for the samaras scheme and of these 2,147 villages, 254 have elected only women as panchayat members,” a senior official in the panchayat department said. In the last elections, more than 30% panchayats were formed based on the samaras scheme.
CM Narendra Modi had encouraged villagers to opt for the scheme because polls, according to him, created enmity among communities.
Siswa, a small village in central Gujarat, has appointed 12 college girls as panchayat members. “They will run the village panchayat for one term,” said the official. Political analyst Achyut Yagnik believes this is not really empowerment of women. “In villages the administration is run by the husbands of the women in power in panchayats,” Yagnik said.
(With inputs from PTI)