'Govt to push amendments for 50 pc reservation for women in panchayats'

'Govt to push amendments for 50 pc reservation for women in panchayats'

The government will push amendments for increasing to 50 per cent the reservation for women in panchayats in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament even as it is mulling whether to extend the ward reservation for women candidates to two terms from the current one term.

At the inaugural session of a two-day national workshop on 'Implementation of PESA Act: Issues and way forward', Union Minister Birender Singh said the government is likely to push the amendments in the Budget session, which begins February 23.

"At present, a ward is reserved for women candidates in panchayat polls for five years. We are planning to increase that to two terms (10 years) so that a woman candidate is enthused to do public work and strengthen her leadership as well," Singh said.

Talking about the proposed constitutional amendment to increase women's reservation in panchayat polls to 50 per cent, he said, "We hope to bring the amendment during the upcoming Budget session."

The Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister said the move is unlikely to be opposed by any political party. In line with the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, Panchayati Raj institutions currently have 33 per cent of all seats reserved for women.

Meanwhile, the minister also said the government is mulling a reduction in the age limit for offering pension to widows. Currently, widows aged above 40 are eligible for pension. Singh, however, refused to specify the details of the plan, saying it is at a "nascent stage".

Meanwhile, Singh made a strong pitch for the implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, by states for the uplift of tribals, saying that adivasis "cannot wait any longer" for development.

He also lauded tribal communities in India for sticking to their values and culture, which he added, was the reason that imperialist forces could not "eradicate" them as had happened in other parts of the world.

Union Minister of State for Panchayati Raj Nihal Chand said the workshop was the first initiative in nearly 20 years towards the implementation of the Act.

Panchayati Raj and Tribal Development ministers from 10 states are attending the workshop.

The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act empowers gram sabhas to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the local people, their cultural identity, community resources and customary modes of dispute resolution.

It also seeks to empower such sabhas to approve plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development, issue utilisation certificates, select beneficiaries for poverty alleviation and other programmes, etc.

During the workshop, discussion will take place on framing of PESA module rules, compliance of the provisions of state Panchayati Raj Acts and Subject Laws with provisions of the PESA Act, empowerment of gram sabhas, strategies for capacity building, infrastructure and staff in gram panchayats and effective utilisation of grant of 14th Finance Commission awards.

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