20 April, 2021

What The Chaupal Teaches

Haryana’s new, ‘progressive’ panchayat election rules skewers the chances of women and the marginalised

P. Lashkari
What The Chaupal Teaches

In rural Haryana, last year’s drought-hit fields are finally giving way to the verdant yellow and green of mustard, but the people are restive, even angry. All along the glittering 250-km highway that connects Rohtak with Nuh—Haryana’s west and east, also its best and worst—a wedge has been driven between the rich and the poor by the changes brought by the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP gov­ernment in the panchayat polls law.

One new condition in particular has everybody agitated—that every panchayat must consist only of the school-educated. Which means the ‘illiterates’ will have little say from now on. And even the Supreme Court has been no help—it dashed the hopes of many a political aspirant in Har­yana’s villages when it backed the state’s amendment on the grounds that only the educated can distinguish “good from bad”.

The law, described as a “body blow to justice” by MP and former panchayati raj minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, is resented for MLAs and MPs are excluded from...

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