Tribals protest against reduction in quota for Odisha panchayat polls
BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Adivasi Kalyan Sangha, an organisation of tribals, held a rally on Monday in front of the Bolangir district collector’s office against the reduction in their quota for the panchayat polls.
Niranjan Bisi, a Sangha leader, said tribals in 23 of the state’s 30 districts would be politically side-lined as not a single sarpanch post has been reserved for them in 195 blocks. He added similarly no panchayat samiti chairperson post has been reserved for them.
“In 2017 panchayat polls, at least 2,300 posts of sarpanch were reserved for tribals in the 23 districts while 70 posts were marked for us for the posts of panchayat samiti chairpersons. But this time, we have been totally forgotten just to appease the OBC (Other Backward Class) candidates who are numerically more than us,” said Bisi. “This is a violation of Article 243D of the Constitution, which states that seats would have to be reserved for scheduled tribes and scheduled castes in every panchayat in proportion to the population...”
Bisi said in the Bolangir district, where tribals account for 21% of the population, not a single post of sarpanch in 317 gram panchayats have been reserved for tribals. He added in 2017, 72 posts were reserved for them. In Patnagarh block, where tribals constitute 32% of the population, no post of sarpanch has been reserved for them.
“We would socially boycott (ruling) BJD (Biju Janata Dal) and not allow any leader of the party to enter the villages if our voices are ignored.”
Similar protests were organised in Sonepur, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Angul, Nuapada, and Balasore districts for retaining the 2017 panchayat polls quota for tribals.
“As per the amended Odisha Gram Panchayat Act, no post of sarpanch has to be reserved for tribals. So, to ensure that tribals get 22.8% reservation, we have reserved the posts of ward members in the rest of the districts,” said Gyana Das, director of the panchayati raj department.
Kalahandi Adivasi Sangha chief Parakash Majhi accused the government of depriving the tribals of their rightful due. “When (chief minister) Naveen Patnaik came to power in 2000, he did everything possible for tribals by starting several schemes. But in 2022 panchayat polls, the government wants to do OBC politics and thus tribals are no longer required. By making the tribals weaker in the panchayati raj system, whatever gains the tribals made would be nullified.”