R'than decision to fix minimum criteria to be challanged

Amid strong protests by opposition parties and social activists, the Rajasthan government’s decision to fix minimum education qualification for candidates contesting Panchayati Raj elections is likely to be challenged in the court.

Several organisations have claimed that the state government’s decision is an attempt to encroach upon the right to equality guaranteed under the Constitution.

“The new law has directly thrown out 80 per cent of women and tribal candidates from the poll fray. It is the most discriminatory decision taken by any government in Rajasthan and can be very much challenged in the court,” said Kavita Srivastava, national general secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties, (PUCL).

“We are not against education, but it’s an attempt to encroach upon right to equality. Why doesn’t the law get implemented unanimously on all legislators and other elected representatives?” she added.

Sources said social organisations are taking legal opinion on the law following which it will be challenged in the court.

The new law has come just ahead of the Panchayati Raj elections in Rajasthan, due next month.

The amendment to the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act 1994, has made it mandatory for candidates contesting zila parishad and panchayat samiti polls to be class 10 pass and those contesting sarpanch elections to be class 8 pass.

In scheduled areas, the eligibility has been fixed at class 5 pass. Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his Congress party have come openly against the new law.

“The law should have been implemented from top to bottom. The BJP should have tabled it in state Assembly followed by a detailed discussion and open public debate. I fail to understand the reason why BJP implemented it in a haste,” said Gehlot.
“In the state Assembly, of 200 legislators, we have eight legislators who are class 5 pass, 13 are just class 7 pass, 17 are 10 pass and 24 are 12 pass,” he added.

Adverse impact

In all, there are 9,177 gram panchayats in Rajasthan, of which, 4,588 (50 per cent) are reserved for women.

The decision is likely to impact the candidature of these contestants as women literacy is extremely low in rural areas.

The family members of some candidates are reportedly ready to pay any amount of money to obtain fake mark-sheets of class 8 and 5. In many families, the women candidates have been replaced by their educated daughters or by their daughters-in-law.

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