Rajasthan rule reversal right step

Rajasthan’s new government has done well to do away with the minimum education criterion for candidates contesting local body elections. Its predecessor, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government, had made it mandatory for those contesting municipal, zila parishad and panchayat samiti elections to have completed studies till Class 10 and those contesting sarpanch elections to have passed Class VIII. The logic underlying this rule was that a school-educated person makes for a better elected representative. This is flawed logic. It is based on an assumption that a less schooled person is less intelligent and less capable of being a leader and, conversely, that a school-educated person is more capable of discharging the responsibilities of representing the interests of the people. This is not necessarily the case. There are people who are highly educated but sorely lacking in leadership or decision-making skills. And there are others who may not have studied much but show remarkable capacity to represent people, organise resources and engage in good governance.

Moreover, the education criterion for being a candidate in elections is undemocratic as it excludes people from exercising their right to contest elections. This is particularly relevant in a country like India where a significant number of people are illiterate and where the problem of school dropouts remains a challenge. According to the 2011 census, 33% of Rajasthan’s population and 48% of its female population was illiterate. If the number of school dropouts is added to this figure, it would mean that a vast number of people in Rajasthan cannot contest elections if the previous BJP government’s move to exclude them from contesting remained in place. In 2013-14, Rajasthan was ranked 31 among 35 states and union territories for elementary schools being accessible by all-weather roads. People don’t go to school because of a variety of often insurmountable problems. Should they be additionally penalised for a problem that is beyond their control?

The Ashok Gehlot government’s decision to get rid of the education criterion for local elections is a victory for democracy. Especially at the level of local bodies, it is those who are sensitive to the needs of the masses and embody well their interests that make for the best elected representatives. India needs from its elected representatives at all levels to be honest and sensitive to the needs of the people. We need our leaders to show strong commitment to our Constitution and uphold its values under all circumstances. These qualities have nothing to do with a school education. The Haryana government, which brought in a similar rule for candidates contesting local body elections should draw inspiration from Rajasthan and scrap the rule.

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Rajasthan rule reversal right step

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