New Delhi, May 2:Ministry of Panchayati Raj has come out with a study on elected women representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions. The following are the conclusion and recommendations of the study:Socio- economic and demographic profile of elected women representatives. * The Pradhan is the senior-most Panchayati Raj functionary at the Gram Panchayat level, and this is reflected in the data on age, which showed that Ward Members were generally younger than Pradhans. By gender, too, the seniority of males in politics was marked as elected female representatives were found to be generally younger than their male counterparts.
* In terms of social groups, the distribution of elected representatives by caste reflects their distribution in the rural population. A large proportion of them are from the more disadvantaged sections of society (SC – 26%; ST – 13%). About 28 percent belong to the general category.
* Generally, educational attainment was upto middle school or above among elected representatives (48%). Almost one-fifth were illiterate, but the gender gap was significant (women – 24%; men – 6%). As expected, the Pradhans had higher levels of educational attainment than the Ward members.
* Economic background, assessed across ‘APL/BPL status’ and the ‘adequacy of food throughout the year,’ revealed that Pradhans had a better economic status, and there was not much difference on the basis of gender.
* The responsibilities that accompany a higher position in Panchayati Raj institutions are reflected in the higher proportion of Pradhans, as compared to Ward Members, spending the greater part of their time in panchayat-related works. Other than this, the main activities were found to be ‘farming’ for men and ‘household work’ for women, neither of which is a surprising finding.
Political career of EWRs
Usually, the time gap between getting associated with local politics and contesting the local body election for the first time was found to be very small, implying that the majority of the elected representatives did not have long-standing political linkages. It was with a few representatives that we find evidence of early association with local politics serving them in good stead in the long run.
In the case of women representatives, prior association with any form of politics was low, and for most women the act of contesting the first election signaled their entry into active politics. Whatever prior association they had was of a limited nature.
In the case of male representatives, on the other hand, association with some form of local politics seems to have been a characteristic of their political careers. Most of them had been involved with community activity or politics in their youth before entering the panchayats. This early association may be indicative of their aspirations to pursue politics as a career. In the case of women, it is clear that the provision of reservations had played a determining role. An Analysis of this data, by state or by elected status, does not reflect much difference on this aspect.
A family environment attuned to politics can be an important factor underlying the choice of politics as a career. However, as much as four-fifths of the elected representatives did not have anyone in their family affiliated with politics. This was more evident in the case of Ward Members as compared to Pradhans, and male representatives as compared to their women counterparts.
Husbands (30%) and other family members (12%) were reported as playing an important role in motivating women representatives to contest elections the first time. By contrast, their male counterparts are usually self-motivated (40%).
The majority of the elected representatives had contested only one election (87%) and hence the proportion of first timers in politics was also high (86%). Around 14 per cent were re-elected more than once at the Gram Panchyat level.
Reservation has played a significant role as four-fifths of all the representatives got elected from reserved seats. Reservation facilitated the first entry into politics for most of the elected representatives (83%). However, it did not help much in continuing for second or third terms, as the proportion that got elected from the reserved seats was 45 per cent and 58 per cent respectively. The role of reservation was also evident from the fact that it emerged as an important motivator (43%) for contesting the first election as much as its withdrawal was an important reason for not contesting the election among former women representatives (39%).
Ex-women representatives, who faced defeat in their attempts to continue their careers, accepted that there was less social interaction and/or no proper campaigning (52%) on their part. The problem of unacceptability/conflict across different social categories was another important reason mentioned by two-fifths of them.
In line with the above discussion, and also based on the fact that 91 per cent did not contest any intermediate/Zilla Parishad election, higher levels of political aspiration are generally not present among the Gram Panchayat-level Panchayati Raj functionaries.
After getting elected, acclimatization to the Panchayati Raj system for effective performance is facilitated by first undergoing a well-structured training programme. However, this opportunity was not available to a large proportion of newly elected representatives (43%). The chief reason was simple: ‘training not being held (61%)’, followed by not called for training (22%).
Training in ‘Rules and Regulations of Panchayats’ and in ‘Roles and Responsibilities’ are very critical for better performance, but these were attended by 57 per cent of and 43 per cent of representatives respectively. Irrespective of gender and position, three-fifths apparently felt the need for training on the ‘Rules & Regulations of Panchayats’.
High levels of satisfaction with different aspects of training such as logistical arrangements of training (seating, visibility of screen board, training material),quality of instructor (attitude and language) among those who attended the training further reinforces the importance of having a defined training programme for elected representatives.
By and large, training programmes are perceived as participatory in nature (90%), where questions could be easily asked (85%) and female representatives, reportedly, receiving treatment at par with male trainees (91%).
The findings also indicate that, overall, elected women representatives’ functioning within an enabling environment at the level of the village community and the household.
Quality of Participation of ERWRs
* Overall, the quality of participation assessed across various dimensions turned out to be reasonably good. A sizeable 93% of male Pradhans reported performing their primary role of organizing and attending the Grame Sabha meetings. Though in small numbers than male Pradhans, a singnificanly large proportion of female Pradhans (86%) also reported executing this important role of being a local Panchayti Raj functionary. However, the participation of women citizens of the village was reported to be quite low (less than 25%) which points to the need for better community mobilization by elected representatives.
* The satisfaction of the community with elected representatives’ initiatives regarding Gram Sabha meetings was neither too high nor too low. Elected representatives forcing their ideas or dominating during Gram Sabha was not reported (86-89%) but, at the same time, their consideration of the community’s voice was also not reported by a large majority (61%).
* One-third of elected representatives report interactions with the police, local bureaucracy and officials in the line departments to discuss schemes or participation in election campaigns. As expected, this was slightly higher in the case of male representatives and among Pradhans. Taking proactive initiatives in signing petitions, participating in protests, alerting media or notifying police/court about local problems was mentioned by 24-35 percent of elected representatives.
* The selection of beneficiaries for different schemes is usually done during Gram Sabha meetings (56%). But at least in one-third of the time, they are prepared ahead of the meetings for mere approval by the Gram Sabhas (31%). According to the elected representatives, most of the time the programme guidelines related to drawing the list of beneficiaries appear to be adhere to (81%). However, the community’s perception about beneficiary selection for different schemes and its implmentation were not that high.
* Elected representatives’ initiatives for public health such as awareness generation campaign, drives for the prevention of disease counseling/providing medical aid for family planning were mentioned by 41-51 per cent of community members, while around 58-66 per cent reported their elected representatives’ efforts for providing better education by efforts to increase enrolment and reduce dropouts from school. However, the majority of community members did not confirm such initiatives, indicating scope for further efforts on the part of their elected representatives.
The performance index, computed by using a range of questions related to the role elected representatives, shows that the important determinants of good performance include the following: a longer duration of being an elected representative, training, education upto middle school and above, and, active engagement in panchayat work.
As revealed by the performance index, the high performers among elected women representatives were from Kerala, followed by Karnataka, Tripura, Maharashtra, Sikkim and West Bengal. On the other hand, the performance score was on the lower side in Orissa, Arunachal pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Synergy with Parallel Bodies/CBOs
It is interesting to note that while 93 per cent of the elected women representatives reported the presence of parallel bodies in their villages, only 38 percent of these reported being members of one or more than one such body.
The significant difference between the involvement of the Pradhans as compared to the Ward members again points to the considerably more active role played by the Pradhan in the affairs of the village as compared to the Ward members. The gender gap in this respect – with 33 percent of the elected female representatives as compared to 49 percent of the men – also highlights the continuing lack of voice for women representatives in the affairs of the village.