PUNJAB PANCHAYATS and Rural Development Department Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa has called for a “Punjab Panchayati Raj Amendment Bill” providing for mandatory educational qualification for sarpanches and panches for contesting Panchayat elections in Punjab.
Bajwa proposes that on the lines of a similar amendment by neighbouring Haryana, Punjab should make it mandatory for a panchayat election candidate, belonging to general category, to be a matriculate. For a woman candidate, the minimum qualification should be Class VIII pass and for a candidate belonging to SC category it should be Class V pass.
Talking to The Indian Express, Bajwa said he would bring a proposal about the amendment in the Act and if all goes well then it should get a nod from the Cabinet as well as Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
It all depends on the Chief Minister and my colleagues in the Cabinet. For now, it is my personal proposal. I am open to debate and discussion. If my CM and colleagues okay it, we will bring the Bill,” he said.
Bajwa refused to give a timeline to the proposal. On a question as to whether the Bill could be tabled in the budget session of Assembly, he said it all depended on how his colleagues responded to the proposal.
He added that out of about 12,500 panchayats in Punjab, nearly 50 per cent members were illiterate, “They clear proposals and documents without knowing the content. That is where corruption begins. In the end it is the members and sarpanches who bear the brunt as they are the signatories.”
He said, “When the world is going digital and education becoming the need of the hour, the focus was fast shifting to villages.”
The department is also mulling an inquiry on the distribution of funds of villages in Punjab ahead of elections He said he had sought a list of villages getting grants worth Rs 1 crore or more, “We will see how these grants were utilised. We will either get an inquiry done or a third party audit.”