Nirbhaya Wing Report Seeks Revival of Jagratha Samithis
KOLLAM: Following an allegation that panchayat-level Jagratha Samithis intended to address issues relating to women and children in panchayats were not functioning well, the Nirbhaya wing under the Social Justice Department submitted a draft report to the government with some key suggestions to revive it.
The Jagratha Samithis said to be the eyes and ears of the Kerala State Women’s Commission had been working at a three-tier level. It is expected to redress the complaints from the panchayats and at district-level on its own and are anticipated to transfer grave complaints to the Women’s Commission itself. But the ineffectiveness on the part of panchayats to constitute and maintain these samithis resulted in heavy work load for the Women’s Commission.
Under such a situation, Minister for Social Justice M K Muneer entrusted Nirbhaya to look into this matter. They now submitted a report titled, ‘Revised Guidelines for Jagratha Samithis’ in the last week of July with three main suggestions.
The suggestions were to make mandatory the constitution and meeting of Jagratha Samithis, make elected representatives in the panchayat-level more accountable and to make the functioning of the samithis in line with the Grama Sabhas. For this, the wing proposes to make necessary amendments to Kerala Panchayati Raj Act and Kerala Municipal Act. All the recommendations were made after evaluating the performance of Jagratha Samithis. The report was prepared with the help of Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA).
“At present, the working of Jagratha Samithis is not up to the mark. It has been noted that many of these samithis were not submitting their monthly report with the Kerala Women’s Commission in a time-bound manner. The draft report will address the issues impeding the working of these samithis,” A Shaniba, project director, Nirbhaya, said.
She told Express that the main problem, which the wing found out, was lack of awareness at the local body-level about the importance of Jagratha Samithis. Shaniba said that to address this, Nirbhaya, with the help of KILA, would conduct awareness classes across the panchayats. KILA is the nodal agency for training, research and consultancy for Local Self-Government institutions. Chairperson of Kerala Women’s Commission K C Rosakkutty told Express that majority of the panchayats in the state were not aware of the fact that Jagratha Samithis had legal sanctity. “We had earlier invited the attention of the Chief Minister and the Social Justice Department into this matter. We also made a suggestion that the Samithi meeting should be made mandatory on the lines of Grama Sabhas. The errants should be dealt with an iron hand,” Rosakkutty said.
She also said that the reluctance on the part of panchayats to constitute samithis could be due to lack of awareness and added that the monthly report of these samithis was not submitted by many panchayats which shows the laxity of the same. “As the crime against women are increasing, the Jagratha Samithis could act as an effective redressal body. It would ease the work load of the Commission as majority of the cases would be settled in the ward-level.’