With the aim to ensure political participation by women in village panchayats, the state government introduced a bill to amend the Himachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 in the legislative assembly on Tuesday. The bill proposes to conduct 'mahila gram sabhas' in all panchayats in the state four times in a year.
However, there is no such provision to hold separate houses for women and the panchayati raj department had been getting this feedback time and again that women are not allowed to raise their issues in the general 'gram sabhas' because of the deeply entrenched patriarchy in the state.
Defeating the patriarchal system at the ground level, the government has now decided to hold separate 'mahila gram sabhas' in which women could raise their issues freely. A panchayati raj department official said the basic purpose is to redress issues facing women in 'gram sabhas' and conducting 'mahila gram sabhas' was a solution.
The bill, tabled by panchayati raj & rural development minister Anil Sharma, aims to ensure that the village level functionaries of various department of the state government attend the meeting of 'gram sabhas', it is also proposed to empower the district panchayat officers to notify different dates for holding 'gram sabha' meeting in different panchayats.
A senior department official said some time quorum for the 'gram sabha' meeting remain uncompleted due to some local functions or other reason. "From now on , district panchayat officers will notify the date and also panchayats will have their own say to fix the date for 'gram sabhas'," he said, requesting anonymity, adding that it would certainly increase the people's participation is 'gram sabha' meeting, which has been decreasing over the years.
The government also introduced a bill to amend the Act for re-defining the expression 'near relatives'. There were complaints that the office bearers of the panchayats are nominating their relatives as members in the vigilance committee that led further connivance to misuse government funds.
The government also proposed to make the explanation more exhaustive under subsection 1 of section 122 of the Act that deals with the disqualification of panchayat office bearers following the complaints of encroachment on government land by self or family members.
In 2013 the then union panchayati raj minister, V Kishore Chandra Deo, had told the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session that the central government has advised states to hold special 'gram sabha' meetings to redress issues facing women. He had also recommended holding 'mahila gram sabha' meetings at which issues concerning children could be taken up.