The Haryana government's move to impose educational and other qualifications on those contesting panchayat (village council) elections was "undemocratic and unwarranted", former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said on Monday."This decision (imposing educational qualifications for contesting candidates) is undemocratic. This will be opposed," Hooda told reporters here.The BJP government led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had, on August 11, decided to amend the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, and announced new rules to make it mandatory for candidates to have basic minimum academic qualifications and even ensure that they have functional toilets in their homes.
Candidates with criminal charges against them and loan defaulters will also be barred from contesting panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) elections under the new rules.The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday stayed this decision following a petition by a woman candidate for panchayati elections.The new amendments, approved by the Haryana cabinet, had prescribed Class 10th as minimum academic qualification for all levels of PRIs elections."If statistics of panchayat elections in Haryana are seen, in the general category, 60 per cent males and 81 percent women will lose the right to contest if the new rules are applied. In case of scheduled caste candidates, 62 per cent males and 83 per cent women will be ineligible to contest. Does this government think that 71 per cent of the population is just to cast votes and not contest," Hooda asked.
"People want to know if members of parliament and legislatures can be uneducated and still make laws, why are qualifications being prescribed for panchayat elections," the Congress leader said.He said he was not opposed to literacy among elected representatives. "But this rule should be made applicable from the top and people should be given at least five years before it is implemented," Hooda said.The Congress leader blamed the BJP governments at the Centre and in Haryana for being "directionless".He said oil prices crashed internationally but the central and state governments were not ready to pass on the benefits to the people.The former chief minister said the Khattar government had failed to fulfil any of its electoral promises, including Rs.2,000 per month old-age pension.