NEW DELHI: Union Minister Maneka Gandhi today said that she will write to all chief ministers to make it mandatory for a village chief or sarpanch to have certain minimum educational qualification.
In 2015, Rajasthan and Haryana governments amended their Panchayati Raj laws and laid down minimum educational qualifications required to contest panchayat elections.
"All state governments must implement what Rajasthan government has done," Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said in response to a suggestion from a woman sarpanch at an event held today.
She said that her ministry will write to all state governments on the issue.
"Rajasthan had done a really good thing. There was a lot of protest against it initially, but I think it is a very good decision. I think it should be adopted all over. It will give women some incentive to study," the minister said.
Rajasthan's state legislative assembly passed its Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill in 2015 requiring candidates contesting Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls to have studied Class 10 and those for the post of a sarpanch to have studied Class 8.
Later, Haryana too brought similar changes to its law.
The Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2015, fixed Class 10 as essential qualification for candidates contesting panchayati elections, while the qualification for women and scheduled caste candidates was Class 8.
Both Rajasthan and Haryana also required candidates to compulsorily construct a toilet in their homes.
Activists had objected to the move and amendments made by Haryana were contested before the Supreme Court but were upheld.
Activists say that the move will debar the poor and the most marginalised from contesting elections.
Maneka Gandhi, however, dismissed these concerns. In response to a question about how the decision could exclude many from contesting, she said, "That's good, if you are going to raise the benchmark then someone is going to be left behind. So, this is a good idea." The minister was addressing elected women representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions as well as their master trainers from across the country.