Re-examine literacy criteria for panchayat polls: Amartya Sen

New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) There is a need for a Constitution bench to deliberate on the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Haryana government’s decision to make literacy an essential criterion to contest panchayat elections, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has said.

“We need to distinguish between what our objectives are and what is the state of the country… It does not mean that everybody should be literate and have a toilet in their homes and till that happens, we deny the people their privileges,” Sen said here at a discussion on his latest book ‘The Country of First Boys’ late on Thursday.

“We do not have to deprive the people who are already deprived and take away what is their privilege,” he said.

The noted economist also batted for a hearing of the matter by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court.

The Haryana assembly had passed a bill in September making it mandatory for contesting candidates to possess minimum educational qualifications and also ensure that they have a functional toilet at home.

The Supreme Court on December 11 upheld the Haryana state law mandating that only those having “minimum” educational qualifications will be eligible to contest panchayat elections.

Under the new law, contesting candidates require a minimum qualification of matriculation (Class 10).

Scheduled Caste and women candidates require middle pass (Class 8) qualification and women candidates from the Scheduled Caste category need to be at least class 5 pass.

The panchayat polls in the state are scheduled to be held in January, 2016.

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