Saturday 15 December 2018

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ZP polls raise controversy over OBC women reservation

 

Goa is creating another history in the election arena, by holding zilla panchayat elections fully with electronic voting machines, that too by reserving seats for the OBC women among the 33 per cent reserved quota.

This is for the first time Goa would have a two-tier system. Even after the 73rd constitutional amendment came into force here in April 1994, on the lines of which Goa had framed a new legislation, only village panchayat elections were held in January 1997.

The Goa Panchayati Raj Act made a provision for the ZPs, opting out from the taluka panchayat system. But the actual ZP formation has come only after the All Goa Panchayat Parishad rushed to the court. The state government has now assured the court to hold ZP polls on 6 February.

"As Goan electorate is already habituated to EVMs in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, we will also have it with the EVMs", says Prabhakar Timble, the state election commissioner. They have already requested the Chief Election Commission to allow them to use their EVMs for the purpose.

"We have no problem provided the SEC develops norms for voting. We can spare our machines while the staff as well as the voters are educated in this regard", says R P Pal, the additional electoral officer here. He is waiting for a final nod from the CEC.

Though reserving 33 per cent seats for women is mandatory as per the constitution, the issue of reserving some of these seats for OBC women has come under fire. Incidentally, there are no other reservations in the panchayat elections here.

"How can we have separate quota only for OBC women when even the Parliament is undecided over it", asks Dr Wilfred de Souza, former chief minister, whose Nationalist Congress Party is presently supporting the coalition government. He has presently sought legal opinion on the issue and is even prepared to challenge it.

After toppling the Congress government in mid-November, chief minister Francisco Sardinha reversed his predecessor's decision to have separate quota for OBC women, besides 33 per cent general category reservation for women, as it rose reservation quota to almost 50 per cent.

Among the 30 ZP constituencies in the North district and 20 in the South, the government has reserved 10 and seven seats respectively for women. Two and one among each are respectively reserved for OBC women.

While having no other reservation for the OBC category like around five per cent kept at village panchayat level, the government has also not made any provision for co-opting scheduled caste persons on the ZPs, like what Goa does at panchayat level. Goa's SC population is hardly 10 per cent.

Sardinha in the meanwhile also reversed another decision of the Congress to have a third tier of taluka panchayat. Former chief minister Luizinho Faleiro had suddenly decided about it last year, almost five years after the state Assembly had decided to stick to two-tier system.

Faleiro was however the first chief minister to appoint non-officials as the state election commissioner and state finance commissioner while erstwhile governments appointed its own bureaucrats, merely to fulfil the constitutional requirements. The SFC however has still not started functioning in its real sense, by bifurcating state's financial resources.

The size of Goa is smaller than a district of any state, due to which the tourist state had requested the central government to allow to have only taluka panchayats and not the ZPs, which is actually a constitutional requirement. But no political party at the centre has agreed to move the required amendment in the Parliament.






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