The debate on the recent amendment to the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act is gaining momentum after the Punjab and Haryana high court stayed the decision of the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in the state on fixing minimum qualification for contesting the panchayati elections.
The government, through an ordinance on August 11, had also announced some other conditions for contestants.
However, politicians across the board see the move as "unconstitutional" and feel that such a law should be first made for MPs and MLAs.
BEGIN FROM PARLIAMENT, DEMANDS SAMPAT
Senior Congress leader Sampat Singh believes that such a change should be first made in Parliament where the Panchayati Raj law originated .
"The state is competent to make the change as it has a state Act to do so. But you have to understand that the Act itself is a creation of 73rd amendment of the Constitution. Therefore, it would be wiser to makes such changes at the central level first before doing anything at the state level," the Congress leader said.
Singh feels that both the occasion and the manner chosen by the government for bringing this ordinance were wrong.
"You cannot bring such changes at the eleventh hour. People had already started their preparations for the elections. Besides, you need to discuss such issues in assembly first rather than simply imposing them on public," he said.
EXPERIENCE BETTER THAN LITERACY: GANGWA
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MLA Ranbir Gangwa believes that contesting elections is a constitutional right of an individual which no one should take away.
"We have a saying in Haryana that an experienced person is better than a literate person. It is not necessary that if you are literate you would understand the nuances of life. They come to you with experience only," Gangwa said.
He added, "When there are no educational criteria for the country's prime minister or MPs or even MLAs, then why to use a different yardstick for panchayati elections?"
Former CPI (M) state secretary Inderjit Singh feels that with such amendments, the government was further marginalising the neglected people.
Calling the ordinance as "undemocratic" and "unconstitutional" at a recently held party convention, the comrade said that the amendment was against the spirit of 73rd amendment.
Haryana Zila Parishad Chairman Association president Rajinder Sura described the ordinance as a "Tughluqi farman".
He said, "I don't think it is necessary that you need to be very literate to make good decisions. There are many BJP leaders who are not even 8th or 10th pass and yet they are members of the state assembly as well as Parliament".
A VOICE IN FAVOUR OF ORDINANCE
However, there are some who think the state government's decision is justified.
"To make effective panchayati raj machinery, we need to have educated people. An illiterate person normally hesitates to come forward to raise an issue," Haryana Janhit Congress general secretary Subey Singh Arya said.
Interestingly, Arya wife plans to contest against Ved Wanti of Muklan village, who on Aug 21 secured the stay order on the ordinance from the High Court.
"My wife has got a bachelors degree. Therefore, she can differentiate between the right and the wrong. On the other hand, the illiterate people have to rely on their secretaries who mostly take them for a ride, which in turn, hampers the entire village's development," Arya said while adding that a person contesting the panchayat elections should be at least 10th pass.