Speech and hearing impaired, TB and leprosy affected persons can now become PRI leaders

Bhubaneswar: Amidst pandemonium in the House, the Assembly today passed The Odisha Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 having provisions not to disqualify persons unable to speak or hear, or affected with leprosy and tuberculosis in the three-tier panchayat elections.

“The provisions relating to disqualification on the ground of deaf-mute, TB or leprosy now available in the Act are practically redundant as these diseases are now courable.

Therefore, the disqualification clause will be suitably amended to allow such persons in the panchayat polls,” panchayati raj minister Arun Kumar Sahoo said while placing the Bill for approval of the House.

Though none from the Opposition members participated in the discussion on the Bill and the SC-ST members of BJP and Congress sat on a dharna in the Well of the House, the Bill was passed by voice vote.

Only two BJD members – Prafulla Samal and Amar Prasad Satpathy, participated in the debate before the Bill got nod of the the House.

The amendment also became part of the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act, 1964, the Odisha Panchayat Samiti Act, 1959, and the Odisha Zilla Parishad Act, 1991, Sahoo said.

The passing of the Bill, making room for the deaf, dumb, TB and leprosy affected persons to become panchayat functionaries has brought cheers among about 2.12 lakh leprosy and and about 45 TB patients in the state.

The Bill, which was passed in the Assembly today ahead of the upcoming three-tier panchayat elections, also made provision to increase the number of panchayats by around 500 in view of the increase in the population from the existing 6,234 gram panchayats.

In a major change, the Bill made provision to rotate the provisions of reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in various wards of panchayats after every general election, altering the existing provisions of changing the quota after every two terms of general election.

According to the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act, 1964, the wards where density of SCs and STs is higher, are reserved for SCs and STs in rotation after every two terms of election.

The Bill also increased the minimum time period for moving a no-confidence motion against Sarpanchs, chairpersons of panchayat samitis and zilla parishads from existing two years to two-and-half years.

“Two years is a small time for planning, implementing and monitoring schemes and pogrammes at the grassroots level,” Sahoo added.