Despite the state government reserving a quota for women in panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), the real picture of their empowerment is quite different from what is should have been. Participation of women in official works seems to be a distant dream in Hisar district, which comprises of 310 villages with 306 panchayats.
With 109 female sarpanches registered on papers, the district in reality has less than 10% female sarpanches who actively participate in their official works. Majority of them are reduced to a 'rubberstamp', for which the show is run by their husbands or sons, commonly referred as "sarpanch representative".
In April 1993, the central government passed the Constitutional (73rd amendment) Act mandating that there should be 33% reservation for women in PRIs, but not giving much emphasis to the same, the representatives here put forth their wives or mothers for the PRI's post in order to get the benefit of reservation.
One such representative's son, Manphool Singh, said that his mother was voted as the sarpanch of Mangali Aklan village due to his father's popularity. He added, "My mother is sarpanch only on papers, everything here is managed by my father, as she is not as educated as my father. He is a matriculate, so he understands things better than my mother. Therefore, he attends all the meetings and functions."
Another female sarpanch, Lakhpati of Dhana Kalan village, has a similar kind of a story, where her husband Rajinder Sangwan, is her representative and takes care of her official assignments. When contacted, Sangwan was reluctant to talk about the issue. "What is the point in inquiring about the subject now when the sarpanch elections are around the corner," he said, adding, "Do you have any problem if husband and wife are working together? You media people have nothing better to do than to create problems for others."
"I don't see many women in our sarpanch meetings. There representatives only attend it on their behalf. I thing out of exiting female sarpanches, only 10% actively participate in the official meetings," said Dadoli sarpanch Dhapa Devi, who has a master's degree in geography.
Meanwhile, the deputy commissioner (DC), Chander Shekar Khare, when contacted over the issue, said that he himself was not happy with the present scenario and felt that the present practice was demeaning the purpose of reservation for female sarpanches. "We have to change the mindset of people. Even my lower rung field staff hesitates in interacting with the female sarpanches, so how can I blame others," the DC added.