The national campaign for Constitutional amendment

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Despite the quick initial successes of the federation, it soon became obvious that the reforms at the state level, though essential, would be insufficient. The national campaign was initiated to promote decentralization by further constitutional amendments to make it mandatory for state governments to devolve all 29 powers, finances and responsibilities to Panchayat Government. There needs to be public opinion to put this on the national agenda and to ensure that the constitutional amendments are done, so that the requisite constitutional architecture is in place for effective local governance and functioning institutions of grassroots democracy. The focus of the campaign is to bring about these constitutional amendments.

The campaign started in 2014 and has had four consultations. Two national consultations have been held so far, one in New Delhi and another in Bangalore. Two state level consultations have been held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Over 200 civil society organizations (CSOs) and individuals have participated in these consultations and have become a part of the campaign.

On 13 December 2001, in the Conference of Southern States (Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra, Tamilnadu, Maharastra) regarding Gram Panchayats and Women Intellectuals held in Bangalore, the eastern zone’s organizer Mrs. Rani took part in it and shared the experiences of the convention.

In the 2nd general elections of the Panchayat held last December 4851 Women Panchayat Board Presidents were elected. Since, in our Indian Constitution, reservation that is not provided to women in the Parliament and the Assembly is being provided in the local bodies all over the country more than 8 lakh women have been elected to the public office.

On 11 March 2014, to strengthen local governments and the elected dalit and women representatives a national conference was held in New Delhi. This conference was co-ordinated mainly to make changes in the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, a separate list for the local bodies to be created similar to the ones for central and state governments in the constitution and to take forward a national campaign. Personalities like Mrs. Devaki Jain and Mr. George Matthew, and representatives from various districts and panchayat presidents took part in it.

To make changes in the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, to take forward a national campaign to create a separate list for the local bodies in the constitution a national conference was conducted in Bangalore on 14 February 2015. Rural, Union and district level representatives from states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh took part in it. Mr. Narayana Swamy, former Member of Parliament and Ruth Manorama, President, NAWO, attended and gave their support for the campaign.

On behalf of our federation, Mrs. N. Chitra took part in the National level Conference held in Punjab, Chandigarh on 7 October 2015 and talked about the discrimination in implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and shared her opinions about the scheme’s implementation status in Tamilnadu.

On August 2015, a two-day discussion to debate regarding the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments and the amendments that should be brought about in Kerala Panchayat laws was held in Thirssur in Kerala. Around 60 village panchayat presidents, district panchayat presidents, experts, activists attended it. In order to make changes in the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments and a national campaign to create a separate list for the local bodies in the constitution, a policy statement must be created. Resolutions including that of taking the campaign to various states were passed.

Consultation on Constitutional Amendments to Part IX, Schedule VII and Amendments in Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act for Strengthening Local Government held on 29th March 2016 at Chennai which was organized by Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation together with National Dalit Movement for Justice, TNNGO Alliance, Human Resources Development Forum, Legal Aid to Women Trust, Social Need Education and Human Awareness. Thirty six Panchayat Presidents including Women and Dalit Panchayat Presidents and NGOs participated in this consultation.