More representation to women in panchayats is seen an attempt to politically uplift them. But an elected woman sarpanch in Chhattisgarh thinks differently.
Quite happy to become sarpanch after the state reserved 50 per cent seats for the weaker sex in panchayats, Hemant Kumari (32) felt her husband is more capable to carry out the roles and responsibilities the Constitution has empowered her. With this reason, she through special power of attorney on non-judicial stamp (notarised) letter, authorised her husband Ballu Ram Dewangan (36) to take all decisions on her behalf, keeping active in the process the widespread reported phenomenon of ‘sarpanch-pati’.
“I haven't done this under any pressure. I am less mobile than my husband. And with domestic responsibilities I was apprehensive about performing my official works. I am even prepared to remain accountable for any irregularity committed by him”, Hemant Kumari said. Power of attorney was to ensure the husband wield all authorities on the name of sarpanch, she stated.
However, peeved at Ballu Ram calling the shots during the panchayat meetings and his intruding in its working for the past six months or so, the ignorant villagers objected. But soon they were shocked to learn the woman sarpanch had '‘legally’' delegated the authority to her husband. A complaint was lodged with the panchayat department.
“This is unacceptable. The sarpanch post is constitutional and she had violated the Panchayati Raj Act. Such post cannot be inherited or transferred”, director of panchayat and social welfare Alok Awasthi told Hindustan Times. A Durg collector has been asked by the director to investigate.
“A show cause notice has been issued to her. Inquiry is in progress. And she would be ousted”, said the collector Thakur Ram Singh.
On a fifty rupees non-judicial letter, Hemant Kumari had authorised her husband to take decisions on the functioning of panchayats, respond to the official correspondences, attend meetings and discharge the duties he deemed as appropriate.
Many husbands (sarpanch pati) rule by proxy but Ballu Ram was happy enough to receive a delegated power from his wife. “What should I say on my wife’s decision”, the husband, who is just eighth pass, told HT, unwilling to comment. Nevertheless, he and his primary educated wife Hemant shocked the panchayat and rural development department as such incident has never happened in the state earlier.
On why such circumstances emerges, Alok Pandey, Manager in international NGO PRIA, which is working on participatory governance, said, “Simply raising the reservation for women to fifty per cent and not showing any concern or efforts for their capacity building, training or inculcating confidence will lead to such situation”. True, a better informed and trained women representatives are capable to take rational decisions.