During the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year, a slogan – “Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon”, had became popular, especially among the women. That time, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s political catchphrase was acknowledged and was used in Madhya Pradesh too.
However, a video of an oath taking ceremony at a village in Madhya Pradesh revealed that though the women got elected by the people, they could not even take their oath of office. In the rural areas, it is an undeniable fact that even though the women get elected with mandatory reservation under the Constitution, it is their male relatives (not in all cases) who operate the levers of power directly or indirectly.
But what if the elected women are deprived of even taking oath and their male relatives like husband and in-laws take the oath in place of the constitutionally elected representatives.
This happened in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district where husbands, brothers-in-law, fathers were seen taking oath as panchayat members in place of the elected women.
In a video which surfaced on social media, as many as seven men sporting a tilak on their foreheads can be seen taking the oath, pledging equality and rights for all.
IANS was informed that 21 members were elected (one sarpanch and 20 panches), out of which 10 members were women. The panchayat elections in Madhya Pradesh concluded two weeks back.
However, during the oath taking ceremony held a couple of days back, only three out of the 10 women were present at the swearing-in. The oath for the rest was taken by male members in the family.
Another example of mockery of the Panchayat Raj system was reported in Damod district, where a newly elected sarpanch’s husband took the oath of office. The swearing-in ceremony was conducted by a block level government official.
After the video went viral, the district administration swung into action and ordered an enquiry into the matter. “Panchayat officials hurriedly administered the oath in the Panchayat Bhavan late in the night by calling the women sarpanch and Panch. An inquiry has been ordered into the matter,” said an officer in Sagar district.
Such incidents are being reported despite the Centre and state governments runing several programmes in the name of “Women Empowerment’. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) can also be found empowering the women to make them capable of deciding for themselves.