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Panchayati Raj Initiatives

With context to 73rd Amendment of Indian Constitution BSC focused on Strengthening Dalit Political Representatives in PRI through people organizations.

Operational Area: This is operational in Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Porbander, Anand, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Kutch, Junagad and Amreli districts.

BSC through people organization has been increasing political awareness which has led to assertion in panchayats, accessing development programmes for Dalit community, negotiating with other representatives of the panchayat. Dalit have started asserting against no confidence motion, a tool generally used by the upper caste to dispel Dalits from political power. BSC role is to build capacities of dalit political representatives, facilitate formation of Union of Dalit Political representatives (Sarpanch and Social Justice Chair person) take up issues at broader level, facilitate linkages with social justice and empowerment department, panchayat department at state level.

As part of institutionalization of agenda of social inclusion, a survey was conducted in 475 village panchayat of 35 taluka during 2005. The survey revealed the following:

1.       Social Justice Committes (SJCs) are formed in 80% villages but only on paper; the members have not been able to organise any meeting. Of them, 8% chairpersons of the SJC are not even informed that they hold this position.

2.       In 20% SJC, members belonged to other than SC and ST communities.

3.       In 14 village panchayat, no women members were nominated in SJC.

4.       As per law, the SJC should meet 16 times in a year. But the record of last 4 years (2001-2005) showed that there were only 5% panchayat where more than 12 meetings in a year had taken place; in 9% panchayat 8-12 meetings were organised; in 27% panchayat less than 8 meetings had taken place. In all 23% SC members reported that they didn’t know that meetings of SJC have been taken place.

5.       In 55% village panchayat, talati didn’t organised meetings in a year. In 12% villages, the SJC members were not able to attend meetings regularly. In 33% villages, SJC members didn‘t know their role and responsibilities and therefore couldn’t perform and received any benefit for the village or dalit residents of the village.

6.       It is mandatory that resolutions passed by SJC should be implemented and ensures social justice to SCs and STs in the village. Of total 32% resolutions passed by SJC were sanctioned and 87% were implemented, through which dalits availed street light facilities or stand post for water.

7.       In all 52% resolutions passed by SJC were not sanctioned or approved by the village panchayat.

In light of these findings, BSC decided to focus on SJC and its members for their effective functioning; ensuring good governance through social audit, proactive role of SJC members and dalit elected representatives, especially dalit sarpanch.

As part of institutionalising agenda of social inclusion and social justice, SJC based forums at village, taluka, district and state level were formed. The SJC based forums are:

1.       Village level 605 Social Justice Committee

2.       Block level 40 Social Justice Committee Manch (SJCM)

3.       District level 9 Social Justice Committee Parishad (SJCU)

4.       One State level forums - Gujarat Rajya Samajik Nyay Samiti Manch (GRSJCM)

Over and above SJC based forum, we developed a Working Group on Panchayati Raj (WGPR), with the consideration that we need a group that is made of persons who are interested and committed to work for effective functioning of PRI, such as, academic, media persons, retired government officials and development activists. While working with them, we could identify persons who have an expertise over different aspects of PRI and of them, three representatives of state level forum are resource persons for national level forum (Association for Local Governance of India - ALGI). BSC has also discussed cases of atrocities and injustice to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) when National Campaign for Dalit and Human Rights (NCDHR) has organised consultation in December 2007.

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