Skip to main content

Documentary suggests samras homogeneity in Gujarat villages is a sham

By Rajiv Shah 
The Gujarat government is planning a huge mela of village panchayat leaders from all over the country in Gandhinagar on August 17, 2013. Last year, it was a state-level function, where awards were distributed to those village panchayats which elected their bodies and sarpanches without contest, thus becoming “samras” panchayats. However, facts collected by Navsarjan Trust, Ahmedabad-based human rights organization, suggest that caste dynamics in villages are so strong that such “samras” show has little or no meaning. Latest information collected by the NGO suggest that the Gujarat ruling establishment’s all-out efforts to “encourage” homogeneity in the state’s rural areas by having as many “samras” village panchayats without elections as possible are already coming to a naught. Documentary evidence collected on the basis of field reports show that at a large number of places, the upper castes are not only refusing to give up their hegemony, but are doing all they can in their capacity to retain power, particularly targeting Dalit or tribal sarpanches, wherever they have been elected.
While the latest example – which has been highlighted a section of the media — is that of a Dalit woman sarpanch, Santokhben Babulal Solanki, from Chadasana village of Becharaji taluka in Mehsana district, who faced a no-confidence motion of from the upper caste-dominated panchayat only because she complained against caste-based harassment, this is not the only case. The no-confidence motion was passed against her on August 1 by a panchayat, whose majority members belong to the upper castes. Interestingly, this happened with a sarpanch who was honoured, on April 8, 2012, by the Gujarat chief minister at a local function. The chief minister called Chadasana an “example” of prevalence of homogeneity in rural Gujarat, where internal strife has become a thing of the last.
Chadasana village, significantly, is situated just seven kilomtres away from Bhechraji town, in whose outskirts the top car manufacturing company, Maruti-Suzuki, proposes to set up one of India’s most modern export-oriented plants. Indeed, the example of Chadasana is not an isolated case in Gujarat which suggests that the lure of development is not enough to bring about a positive change in the social sector. Yet another village, situated not very far away from Chadasana, Lakhvad, experienced a similar situation in April this year, when its Dalit woman sarpanch, Kamlaben Makwana, faced harassment at the hands of the upper caste panchayat members.
Located just three kilometers from the largest North Gujarat town of Mehsana, Lakhvad has a population of 4,000. Makwana, like most other Dalit and tribal sarpanches, was made SC sarpanch under the Constitutional provision of Article 243D, under which SC and ST seats in panchayats should be in proportion to the population of SC and ST population, and the post of village sarpanch should be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a panchayat. Though Makwana was elected unopposed under the samras scheme, the village homogeneity broke apart sooner rather than later, as the upper caste Patels retaliated and things went so far that she and her family members were arrested on the basis of a false complaint of breach of trust and criminal intimidation.
Significantly, this happened after Makwana filed multiple complaints of harassment against her predecessor, Prahlad Patel, and his then deputy, Ratilal Patel. Things went to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), where the Navsarjan Trust executive-director Manjula Pradeep filed a complaint saying that Makwana was “regularly abused” and “threatened” that she would be eliminated. They told her, said the complaint, that they would see to it that she “did not complete her five year term as the village head”. The complaint added, a “false crime” was registered against her and her family members in Mehsana police station, leading the investigation officer to arrest four persons, including herself, her son and her husband. They were illegally kept in police custody for nine days. The NHRC has called for explanation from the Gujarat government.
In another instance, in Pij village in Kheda district, situated just seven kilomtres from the district’s biggest town, Nadiad, two Dalit sarpanches were removed one after another, as the upper caste members of the panchayat found that the Dalits were “not fit for the chair.” The first one was Somabhai Rohit, against whom, say the Navsarjan activists, a “false complaint” was lodged, and he was put in custody, following which he died of heart attack in 2010. The second one was Gordhanbhai Solanki, against whom, again, members of the village panchayat moved to file complaints. Deputy sarpanch Ghanshayam Patel, who owns a rice mill, particularly played a very active part against the Dalit sarpanch.
While squabbles on “illegally” selling of trees removed within the periphery of the village, and suspension of a panchayat official belonging to the Dalit community, were a common feature during panchayat meetings, things reached a flashpoint when the Dalit sarpanch insisted that the water pipeline should be connected to their area, too, as it was deprived of water. A fight ensued, an atrocities case was registered against certain upper caste persons, and finally a no-confidence motion was brought in on July 16, 2013, and the Dalit sarpanch was unseated.
In fact, facts are piling up to suggest that sarpanches are harassed so much that they are simply unable to carry out work normally sitting in the panchayat office. The Bhingrad village in Lathi taluka of Amreli district chose a Dalit sarpanch during the last elections, Vinubhai Solanki. Yet, he was never allowed to sit on the chair of the sarpanch in the village panchayat office. According to a complaint he has written to Lathi PSI, he was told during the very first meeting that because he is a “Harijan” he cannot be allowed to sit on the sarpanch’s seat; he should sit instead of a separate wooden chair, a little away from other members of the panchayat, most of who belong to the upper caste.
“There is wide prevalence of untouchability in the village”, a Navsarjan document prepared on the village says, adding, “The Dalits are not allowed to enter the local temple, more are they are now allowed to buy goods of daily use from local shops. One of the members of the panchayat has long propagated that, with a Dalit sarpanch, the upper caste persons would have to go to his house for getting work done, which was unacceptable. The budget he put up for discussion was never passed. Things reached a flashpoint when the sarpanch objected to one of the influential persons encroached upon government land. The sarpanch was beaten up so badly that he had to be admitted to the district civil hospital in Amreli.”
In Raska village of Mehmedavad taluka of Kheda district, the sarpanch, Vinubhai Makwana, a Dalit, was mentally harassed by the local upper caste community. This happened after he protested against the move by an influential panchayat member to mine up huge areas, beyond what was sanctioned, and illegal felling of trees. A “fake inquiry” was instituted against him, and he was illegally detained for 24 hours “only in order to put mental pressure on him”, says a Navsarjan note. In yet another instance, the sarpanch of Anandi village of Sinor taluka of Vadodara district, Ansuyaben Vasava, a tribal, was not allowed to sit on the seat of the sarpanch of the village by the local strongmen from the upper castes. On intervention from higher up officials, the village panchayat office was opened in July this year, but now nobody attends any meeting she calls for!

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Environment governance in small cities: Need for external intervention, capacity building

By IMPRI Team  The debate over environmental degradation has acquired substantial traction in recent years. Governments, civil communities and international organisations are all working to mitigate the environmental costs of economic expansion and growth. These reforms have also brought to light the concept of environmental governance in emerging towns, which refers to political changes aimed at influencing environmental activities and outcomes. It is under this backdrop that the #IMPRI Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a talk on Small Cities and Environmental Governance in Gujarat and West Bengal: Need for External Intervention or Capacity Building? as a part of #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of Cities – #CityConversations on January 28, 2022. The talk was chaired by Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, an Associate Professor, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan and a Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi. The