Chanakya IAS Academy Blog

Question:“Evident that One-third of all seats in village councils are reserved for women. Also he government has proposed an increase in quota to 50%, and in the period of reservation from five to 10 years But still it is found that basic public services for women are not better in female-headed villages”. Discuss in the lights of above statement that Can the female sarpanch deliver or not. If yes then suggest your views to improve service delivery mechanism in this realm.

Suggested approach followed for answer writing:

Introduction:

  • In 1993, India took an important step towards deepening democracy when it passed the 73rd Amendment that put in place the Gram Panchayat (GP) (elected village council) at the village level. An important feature of this Amendment was reservation for women in GP seats and sarpanch (elected head of GP) posts. This was indeed a crucial step considering the low status of women in India and their consequent low participation in public life. But what have been the impacts and implications of this policy? The anecdotal evidence in this context is mixed. While, on the one hand, it has been claimed that quite often, women sarpanchs are just a front for the male relatives; on the other hand, it has been argued that female sarpanchs are indeed proactive and bring about several positive changes in the village.

Female sarpanchs and service availability in villages

  • Reservation for women for the post of sarpanch has had any significant impact on the perceived availability of basic public services for women in the villages, especially with respect to the services that women are believed to value the most.
  • It is the responsibility of the GP to provide basic public services such as clean drinking water, toilets, gutters etc. to the villagers. Thus the well-being of the villagers depends, to a great extent, on the efficacy of the GP. It is also expected that sarpanchs would play a crucial role in the provision of these services, by their initiative and interest. the political participation of women in villages varies depending on the gender of the sarpanch.
  • Investments made by the GPs in various services like roads, sanitation etc. It is highly plausible that even if money is spent on a public service, there are leakages (via corruption) in the system, which may impact the availability of the services provided in terms of quantity and quality.

Things which need to be considered while evaluation:

Quality and quantity of services focussed on services and issues that are of particular relevance to women:

  • Drinking water;
  • Toilets;
  • Gutters;
  • Schools;
  • Ration shops;
  • Self-help groups;
  • Implementation of welfare schemes, with special reference to Nirmal Gram Yojana (cleanliness scheme) and Janani Suraksha Yojana (maternal health scheme);
  • Male Alcoholism.

Suggetions:

  • Democratic Participation.
  • To analyse the impact of the gender of the sarpanch on political participation of female villagers some important things need to be discussed and are mandatory.
  • Male sarpanchs were somewhat superior in terms of socioeconomic and educational status and had better political connections vis-à-vis the female sarpanchs. In spite of this, female sarpanchs seemed to have had interesting and important impacts.
  • The availability of basic public services was found to be significantly higher in female-sarpanch villages as compared to male-sarpanch villages, in cases where the election had been held 3-3.5 years prior to the survey. However, result is not obtained when the election had been held one year before the survey. This suggests that female sarpanchs become more effective relative to male sarpanchs over a period of time.

Conclusion:

  • The policy implication that comes out of this is that mandated reservation for women in sarpanch posts would work better if the tenure is increased from five years to (say) 10 years. This would be more effective than increasing the reservation for women to 50%.

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