Political dream brings the elderly back to school in Rajasthan
It was an unusual scene at the Government PG College in Barmer on Tuesday. Eighteen-year-old Kamala Kumari and 82-year-old Andaram Jat were writing their Class 8 examination side by side.
There were many others like Kamala and Aandaram who were writing the examination, conducted by the Kota Open University. While some of them were attempting the examination to become literate, a few others were compelled to do so to fulfil their political dream.
The Vasundhara Raje government, through a law introduced in 2014, has made it mandatory for the candidates contesting the panchayat elections to have a certain level of school education. According to the rule, a candidate contesting for the Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti seat is required to have passed at least Class 10 and one contesting for the sarpanch seat is required to have cleared at least Class 8.
After the law came into existence, a large number of candidates had contested the previous panchayat elections on the basis of fake mark-sheets and other documents and many of them had got elected too. However, elections of such candidates were challenged by their opponents. During investigations, many of them were found guilty, resulting in their disqualification and legal punishments.
Learning lessons from the past, aspirants for the panchayat elections do not want to repeat the mistake. Ahead of the panchayat elections, scheduled after the general election in 2019, these hopefuls now want to attain the required education qualification.
Andaram, a resident of Sevniyala village under Baitu block in Barmer, is among such aspirants. He said he was village sarpanch for three consecutive terms, but last time he was unable to contest the panchayat elections due to the 2014 rule. Therefore, he said, he has decided to pass Class 8, so that he could contest the next panchayat election. He said he never went to school in his early age due to lack of resources.
However, there were also candidates without political aspiration. Kamala Kumari said that she had no plans to fight the panchayat elections. She said that she wanted to get a government job. “After clearing Class 8 exam, I will continue my studies, which I could not do earlier,” she said.
Pancharam Choudhary, the principal of Government PG College, said that there were many oldies who were appearing for the examination to become eligible for the next panchayat elections, while some are expecting government jobs such as that of Aanganwadi and ASHA workers.