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Feb. 9, 2017
Venue: IMA Hall (Near Gandhi Maidan), Patna
Jointly organised by TISS, Patna Centre and NIDAN, Patna
The 74th Amendment Act aimed at devolution of power to urban local bodies and provides it with freedom of fund, function and functionaries. It also for the first time provided one-third reservation for women and other marginalized groups in the third tier of government. In 2007 reservation for women in urban local bodies in Bihar was increased from 33 percent to 50 percent. Thus making elected women representatives a formidable group by itself. Consequently we saw that the Mayor of Gaya, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur were women, out of which only one was from a reserved seat. The deputy Mayor from Ara Municipality was a woman too. The dominance of women continued in the 2012 municipal elections also and the present deputy-mayor of Patna Municipal Corporation is a woman. These are encouraging signs of participation but should these be markers for us to believe that women have emerged as an independent political group. Or are they still acting as proxies for their male counterpart. Is the selection of a woman candidate based on her political acumen and the vote bank she generates? Or are they simply acting as a stop gap arrangement for their male counterparts due to rotation in seat reservation for each ward. Unless the women ward councilors are not able to independently create political authority and articulate decision making in its everyday functioning, the purpose of reservation fails. Women ward councilors have an important role and act as agents of change in many sectors of the urban program. The Swach Bharat Mission, 2014 and Smart city program aims at providing basic infrastructure and service delivery. Governance is the weakest link which is imperative for the WASH program to be successful in urban areas. The women ward councilors who compose 50 percent of the total elected representatives therefore need to be at the forefront in decision making and restructuring of the service delivery mechanism in our local bodies.
The one day seminar on ‘Challenges and Opportunities for elected women representatives in urban local bodies’, aims to explore some of these questions. It will see the participation of elected women ward councilors of Patna Municipal Corporation. We need to understand what are the constraints for women councilors and are their sufficient enabling factors for them to come forward and take up challenges. Are there any specific role which women ward councilors can play, or after all these years should women focus simply on paying attention to issues of women and children? This is the second or the third term for some of the women representatives and in another six months the 2017 Municipal elections are due in Bihar. It provides us here in NIDAN, a civil rights group engaged with urban governance and TISS, Patna Center an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion with the women ward councilors.
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