Digital Maharashtra to drive social reforms in 29,000 gram panchayats

The comprehensive mechanism is being set up to push the progressive Prohibition of Social Boycott Act to sensitise the gram panchayats.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | Published:September 11, 2016 4:50 am

The Maharashtra government has decided to adopt the state digital drive in 29,000 gram panchayats to push its social reforms agenda to uproot the evils of human discrimination in the name of caste and community.

A comprehensive mechanism is being set up to push the progressive Prohibition of Social Boycott Act to sensitise the gram panchayats which are the nodal units governing the villages to put an end to the dogmas of human discrimination based on caste or community.

The ministries of information and telecommunication, social justice and urban development will initiate the two-fold strategy which it believes will conform to the wholistic transformation of state to emerge as the leader in socio-economic sectors. The sensitisation of police force which has to tackle the cases of social discrimination will be scaled up.

The first phase will bring the digital revolution across 29,000 gram panchayats. But state government believes, technological revolution will prove futile if it is not adequately backed with social reforms. The techno-social reforms will work on fundamentals of development with human face.

There are a total of 40,000 villages across Maharashtra. It encompasses 29,000 gram panchayats. The digital drive which takes the development plank with emphasis on education, health and agriculture sector would also include social reforms.

Although the state government has adopted the Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, six months ago, it has not been pro-actively pursued at the gram-panchayat levels. As a result, it is perceived as just another law.

The state government’s vision on Digital Maharashtra emphasises that taking technology to the doorsteps of the poor villagers is not about just providing them quality education, employment and livelihood. The index of development will have to factor the social progress. Even a single case of discrimination in name of caste, community of dogmatic belief cannot be allowed in a progressive state like Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Social index changes will have to stem from grassroots and gram panchayats.”

Leading by example, the state government made it evident when it allowed village couple Parmanand Hewalekar and his wife to perform Ganesh Puja at the CM’s home. The couple which faced social boycott in Sindhudurg, had come to Mumbai to protest.

While the statistics indicate Maharashtra is better placed compared to many other states across India in social index, Fadnavis has issued a directive that there would be zero tolerance on cases related to discrimination of any individual or family in name of caste, community or tradition. He has issued the directives to ensure the Prohibition of Social Boycott Act which should be enforced in letter and spirit across the state.

On April 14, Maharashtra unanimously adopted the Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill. Thus it became the first state in India to have a stern act to tackle the menace of extra-judicial institutions such as caste and community panchayats —”jati panchayats”.

While citing the objective of the act, the CM said, “Any act of atrocities inflicted on people in the name of caste, community, tradition, religion that questions the dignity of human being cannot be tolerated. It has to be dealt firmly.”

The act terms social boycott orders against individuals or groups or families by jati panchayats or groups as crimes. And, it has laid down terms of punishment and penalty, including imprisonment.