The Two-child norm (TCN) does not allow women (and men) with more than two children to stand for Panchayat elections in many states. It is a practice that tends to undermine womens’ and (mens’) effective participation in local governance. The TCN is enacted by some States as part of the conformity legislations and has been targeted for population control. It encourages sex-selection, increases discrimination against the girl-child, and worsens the already declining sex ratio, in addition to that, it bars a significant percentage of the grassroots’ population from their constitutional right to self-governance. THP upholds that the imposition of TCN on Panchayat representatives would adversely affect the lives and health of women in particular, whether as elected representatives or as their wives.
THP along with other partners and networks has been advocating for the removal of TCN in Odisha. Two State-level consultations with civil society organization partners and EWR federation members were organized in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on the TCN.
In Bihar, THP continues to engage with the local advocacy platform Jan Adhikar Manch to ensure that TCN is not introduced in the Panchayats.
At the national level, a half-day consultation, ‘Revisiting and Reviewing the Two Child Norm’ was held in THP National Office in Delhi. The consultation witnessed the participation of various CSOs representing different perspectives and interests. Even though the TCN was repealed at the National level, some states still continue to adhere to the norm. The main outcome of the consultation was the need for a National coalition as a mechanism to put forth the issue. The ‘National Coalition against Two Child Norm and Coercive Population Measures’ was launched in December 2011, with the secretariat housed in the Centre for Health and Social Justice. THP India is one of the key supporters of this National Coalition.
Section 40 of Madhya Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act
Section 40 of the Madhya Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act provides for the removal of an elected representative who is found to be not working in public interest, guilty of misconduct or failing to carry out the duties assigned. Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) are empowered to take action under this particular section after appropriate investigation. On the basis of reasonable evidence, they may remove the elected representative from the post. Such a person is declared ineligible to contest for any post for a period of six years.
Section 40 in Madhya Pradesh State Panchayati Raj Act is an impediment for women to exercise their leadership effectively. One of the main outcomes of the series of consultations was the need for a status on the Impact of Section 40. An action research documenting the status report of the impact of Section 40 was commissioned, and carried out by DEBATE, an organization based in Madhya Pradesh. The status report was developed based on field visits, primary and secondary research and interviews with different stakeholders. In addition to this, a signature campaign has been launched by THP and its partners to garner support and solidarity on the issue. Meetings with the heads of Panchayat wings of National / Regional Parties mainly Congress and BSP were organized to share the ongoing advocacy campaign against Section 40 and to demand for its removal. The interaction yielded positive results with the political representatives showing considerable interest on this issue.
Section 46 of Karnataka Panchayati Raj Act
Section 46 of the Karnataka PRI Act states that the tenure of the President and the Vice President of all three tiers of the Panchayats shall be for 30 months from the date of her/ his election.
Members of SUGRAMA Gram Panchayat Chunayitha Mahila Pratinidhigala Sangha, a membership based state federation built by THP, had demanded that the Government of Karnataka commit to a full five year term for the post of the President as is constitutionally mandated for Presidents across the country. Through a study conducted in the last reporting period, it was found that 30 months was insufficient to nurture the leadership of women at the grassroots. Also EWRs were being intimidated to vacate their posts earlier than the 30 month period and several rounds of indirect elections were being undertaken to elect new Presidents.
In this reporting period, in March 2012, Mr. Jagadish Shettar, Minister of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of Karnataka, announced the introduction of a five-year tenure for Presidents and direct elections for Presidents at Panchayat level. As a follow-up of the previous year’s activity and the new announcement, SUGRAMA organized a press conference, welcoming the move by the State Government to end the 30-month tenure.
Other Advocacy Issues
In Rajasthan, a study on Gram Sabhas was commissioned by THP. It was undertaken by the organization Unnati. The study highlighted the significance of organizing regular Gram Panchayats and peoples’ expectations from their elected representatives. The findings and recommendations of the study were shared at a meeting in Jaipur, Rajasthan in June 2011. The participants included Deputy Secretary, Department of Panchayati Raj, Advisor to the Rural Development and State Panchayati Raj Minister, and representatives of IGPRS (SIRD Rajasthan), and civil society organizations like MKSS, PRIA and Action Aid.
The EWRs of Uttarakhand are advocating for amendments in their Panchayati Raj Act. At present, Uttarakhand’s existing Panchayati Raj Act-”The Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 (Uttaranchal Amendment) Act, 2002” is in place. The EWRs have been advocating for amendments, which includes incorporating the socio-cultural context of the mountain terrains of Uttarakhand.
In addition, the EWRs are also advocating for honorariums for Ward Members in Gram Panchayats and appointment of more Panchayat Secretaries. To have an Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act that is gender sensitive and includes provisions promoting women’s effective political participation in the State, has been a long standing demand of EWRs. Additionally, the EWRs have submitted memorandums and petitions to local government functionaries on issues like water, the mid-day meal scheme, appointment of doctors and teachers, etc.