Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dalit woman panchayat chief “faced discrimination”

The Dalit (Arunthathiyar) panchayat president, P. Krishnaveni of Thalaiyuthu panchayat in Tirunelveli, who was brutally attacked by a gang recently, had repeatedly filed complaints with the police officials and district administration citing caste-based discrimination but the administration failed to act, says a fact-finding report.
A fact-finding team, comprising members of Confederation of Federations of Elected Presidents of Panchayat Government, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry; Tamil Nadu Federation of Women Presidents of Panchayat Government; and Dalit Panchayat Presidents Federation of Tamil Nadu, visited the village twice and spoke to the villagers, members of gram sabha and a few officials.
The report, which was released here on Tuesday, says that Ms. Krishnaveni had been facing discrimination right from the day of her announcement to contest elections. She was not allowed to sit in the chair that was allotted for the elected president. Since May, 2007, she had filed 12 complaints with the police and district administration about the discrimination and on her right to function independently but no action was taken.
The fact-finding team has found that Ms. Krishnaveni had to seek the help of District Collector to execute her duties as the vice-president had been thwarting all attempts made by her to work independently.
There were reports that the vice-president and his supporters usually disrupted the proceedings of gram sabha meeting and she had to seek police protection to conduct meetings.
Irrespective of caste affiliation, she had functioned in an unbiased way, stated the villagers. She had taken many decisions in a bold manner which had invited the wrath of a few sections of the dominant castes.
The team also came to know that Dalit presidents belonging to 125 panchayats in the district were subject to one form of discrimination or the other.
The State Government should ensure legal and administrative safeguards and guarantees enshrined in the Constitution. State and district administration should intervene immediately and provide non-discriminatory and atrocity-free political environment for the chiefs to function independently and effectively. The report concluded that panchayat presidents belonging to Dalit communities and women in particular were still being discriminated against.

Thanks The Hindu: Madurai June 22/2011

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