The Panchayat Raj department of Madhya Pradesh issued an order Monday, directing district collectors to take necessary action and submit action taken reports against officers who administered the oath of office to unelected people in the three-tier panchayat system.
The order was issued after it came to light that husbands, brothers-in-law and fathers-in-law of elected women representatives were administered the official oath in at least three panchayats under Sagar, Damoh and Dhar districts.
Panchayat Raj director Alok Kumar Singh said, “We have asked the district collectors concerned to take necessary action in such cases.”
As per reports, oath-taking ceremonies were organised during the ‘pratham sammelan’ in Jaisinagar and Jaruakheda panchayats under Sagar district on August 4. On the occasion, 21 elected representatives, including 10 women, from each of the two panchayats were invited to their respective panchayat offices. But only three women showed up in Jaisinagar and five in Jaruakheda. After the women did not show up, the brother-in-law of one woman, father-in-law of another woman and husbands of two others came in and were administered the oath by the respective gram panchayat secretaries – Asharam Sahu in Jaisinagar and Rajaram Chadu in Jaruakheda.
But after the videos of the men taking oath instead of the elected women went viral, the women were summoned at their respective panchayat offices and administered the oath the next day, while Sahu and Chadu were suspended the following day.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Chadu said: “Of the 10 elected women, five had turned up for the oath-taking ceremony while relatives of the remaining five had come. But there were too many men around and I could not ask them to go away and they took the oath along with other women. But the next day, an oath was administered to the elected women.”
Sagar district collector Deepak Arya said both the secretaries will remain suspended until the inquiry by the district CEO of zilla panchayat is concluded. “A day after the incident came to light, our observers were sent to the respective panchayat offices and the elected women representatives were administered the oath. We will look into the incident minutely and based on the facts further disciplinary action will be decided upon,” he said.
In a similar scene in Gaisabad panchayat that lies about 80 km from Damoh, husbands of 10 elected women, including that of sarpanch Lalita Ahirwar, showed up for the oath-taking ceremony. All the 10 men were administered the oath on August 4 by secretary Dhunsingh Rajput. But soon after the news reached the district administration, Rajput was suspended while another oath-taking ceremony was organised on the evening of August 4 itself and the women were called in and made to take the oath.
Bratesh Jain, the CEO of Hatta Janpad, under which Gaisabad panchayat falls, said: “After the videos went viral, I investigated the matter and a report was sent as per which Dhunsingh Rajput was at fault, as the oath has to be administered to elected representatives. There are 57 gram panchayats under me, and such a thing happened in only one panchayat.”
In Dhar district’s Sundreli gram panchayat, not only were the husbands of elected women administered the oath but the oath was also administered by local BJP leader Radheshyam Kasrawadia instead of the secretary. Dhar Zilla panchayat CEO KL Meena termed the incident a procedural lapse and has issued a show-cause notice in the matter.
Meena said, “We have sought a report to ascertain the facts and the situation that led to this incident. Based on the facts of the report further action will be taken. A block level committee has been constituted to look into it.”