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Odisha panchayat polls: Tribals protest against reduction in quota

Odisha panchayat polls Tribals protest against reduction in quota

Ground Report | New Delhi: Odisha panchayat polls; Before the Panchayat elections in Odisha, the demand for reservation for the OBC community in this election has gained momentum. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have appealed to the Naveen Patnaik government in the state to provide 27 per cent reservation to the OBC community before the election process begins.

The Odisha Tribal Welfare Association, a tribal organization, held a rally in front of the Bolangir district collector’s office on Monday against the cut in its quota for panchayat elections, Hindustan Times reported.

Niranjan Bisi, a union leader, said tribals would be politically marginalized in 23 of the state’s 30 districts as not a single sarpanch post has been reserved for them in 195 blocks. Similarly, no Panchayat Samiti President post has been reserved for him, he said.

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“In the 2017 panchayat elections, at least 2,300 posts of sarpanch in 23 districts were reserved for tribals, while 70 posts were earmarked for us for the posts of panchayat samiti presidents. But this time, we have completely forgotten to appease the OBC (Other Backward Classes) candidates, who are outnumbered by us,” Bisi said. “This is in violation of Article 243D of the Constitution, which states that every Panchayat shall reserve seats for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes in proportion to the population”

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The Bisi said that in Bolangir district, where tribals constitute 21 per cent of the population, not a single post of sarpanch is reserved for tribals in 317 gram panchayats. He said 72 posts were reserved for him in 2017. In Patnagarh block, where tribals constitute 32 per cent of the population, no post of sarpanch has been reserved for them.

Similar protests were organized in Sonpur, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Angul, Nuapada and Balasore districts to retain the 2017 panchayat election quota for tribals. (Odisha panchayat polls)

“As per the amended Odisha Gram Panchayat Act, no post of sarpanch should be reserved for tribals. So, to ensure that tribals get 22.8% reservation, we have reserved posts of ward members in the rest of the districts,” said Gyan Das, director of Panchayati Raj Department.

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Since the tribals constitute 22.5% of the total population of the state, the posts of Sarpanch, Block President and Zilla Parishad President have been reserved on the basis of their population percentage. Accordingly, the posts have been reserved only for the tribals in the scheduled areas.

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“The Orissa High Court has directed to reserve the posts in proportion to the population of the state. The exercise of reservation has been done as per section 10(5) of the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act. As against 22.5% tribal population in Odisha, the government has earmarked 31% posts of sarpanch and block president for tribals, so there is no question of depriving tribals,” said Gyan Ranjan Das, director of Panchayat Raj.

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