ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Education Does Have a Role

This is with reference to the editorial “Burying Grass-roots Democracy” (EPW, 10 October 2015). While one does agree that educational cut-offs should not be a qualifying criterion for participation in elections, particularly in a country where educational inequality also happens to be coeval with other inequalities, one must also remember that panchayat elections often have ended up with “proxy candidates” being elected. Thanks to the unequal local land and power structures, the reservation criterion has been manipulated too often. In all such cases a modicum of education can, in fact, protect the rights and interests of women and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates. Also, some states have devolved substantial funds to panchayats. Karnataka is a case in point. Literate panchayat members would be better equipped to deal with such cases.

The editorial also underestimates the power of local and taluk/district level bureaucracy to manipulate the panchayats. Educated panchayat members can check such manipulation. A criterion should be evolved to avoid and learn from the experience of panchayati raj so far. The editorial argues that education does not guarantee “honesty and efficiency.” But the functional utility of literacy and numeracy in handling day-to-day matters of panchayats cannot be understated.

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