THOUGH elections to 478 gram panchayats out of 614 in the border district of Kutch will be held on December 10, a large number of seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) would remain unfilled for the first time. The same will be the fate of reserved seats for tribal candidates for the post of sarpanchs filled on a rotational basis.
The reason: with the government taking away the Scheduled Tribe status from three Kutch communities, no tribal candidates are available in such villages. The state government, in its special order dated September 5, 2003, stated that the Koli, Paradhi and Waghari communities in the border district would no longer enjoy ST status due to de-recognition ordered by the Central government as per its gazette notification of January 1, 2003.
‘‘Dholavira, famous for its 5,000-year old Indus civilization site, has the largest Koli population. In the ensuing gram panchayat elections, the sarpanch’s post is reserved for an ST candidate on a rotational basis. Even seats in the gram panchyat are reserved for STs. But with Kolis standing derecognised as STs, there will be no candidates for the sarpanch’s post as well as membership of the gram panchayat. We will be ruled by a government-appointed administrator which would be a mockery of the Indian election system,’’ said Velubha Sodha, former Dholavira sarpanch and former chairman of the district central co-operative bank. He says no one in the administration seems to have a solution. He added that Rapar and Bhachau talukas in eastern Kutch also had a sizeable Koli population and it would be the same story there.
According to Kutch Koli Samaj president Rajaram Koli and Kutch Waghari Samaj president Sathwara Jadavji Mohanlal, who have made numerous representations to both state and central governments for re-inclusion of these communities in the ST list, the three constitute a total population of two lakh. ‘‘So far we have participated in all elections from the gram panchayat to the parliament as reserved candidates. Now we cannot fight any election as ST candidates even though the seats reserved for us would go unfilled,’’ they said.
The election wing of the collectorate confirms. ‘‘For elections to the gram panchayats in Kutch and elsewhere, we have taken the last census figure of 2001 into consideration. A strange situation has arisen as the number of reserved seats continue to be the same as per the 2001 census, but the three communities cannot fight the panchayat elections as reserved candidates,’’ official sources in the election cell said. The sources added that there were a large number of villages where no post of sarpanch or gram panchayat member could be filled despite their large population.
‘‘We have sent numerous letters to the state government for clarification in the past six months, but there is no response. This is a policy matter and we cannot do anything on our own,’’ an official said on condition of anonymity. When contacted on Thursday, S M Dave, joint secretary, panchyats, said they were aware of the issue and a three-member special committee of senior state secretaries were trying to work out a resolution. ‘‘This being an election-related matter, I cannot disclose anything now. But we will find some solution before the gram panchayat elections take place next month,’’ he said.
Courtesy - Expressindia.com - New Delhi,India