He said that out of three million directly elected representatives in Panchayat Raj System, one million were women, compared to 4,963 elected representatives in the two houses of Parliament, 27 State and Union Territory Assemblies.
    
"Despite challenges of proxyism, women representatives have performed exceptionally in local bodies in terms of leadership, integrity, responsiveness and sensitivity. The projection in this study is that after 10 to 15 years, women may occupy more than 50 percent in all three tiers of governance which is heartening," Ansari said launching a book ‘Status of Panchayati Raj in the states and Union Territories in India 2013’.
    
The Vice President also stressed on the importance of the tenet of ‘decentralization’ of governance on which the Panchayati Raj institution is based.
    
"In a country of our size and diversity there is no option but to devolve governance to the local levels in order to deal with myriad local issues and services, which need local solutions and delivery, with active participation of the intended beneficiaries," he said.

Ansari said that local bodies were expected to contribute to key elements of good governance like increasing people's opportunities for participation in economic, social and political decisions, assisting in developing people's
capacities and enhancing government responsiveness, transparency and accountability.
    
Expressing optimism about the unprecedented widening of the democratic base of the Indian polity, he said apart from the number of elected representatives, increase in the number of women and SCs and STs in both rural and urban local bodies is unparalleled.
    
This bodes well for the inclusion and empowerment of the marginalized and deprived sections of the society, he said.
    
He expressed concern over the role of state governments in terms of recognizing the jurisdiction of local bodies and devolving financial and human resource to them and said, "Failure on these will have far reaching implications for other levels of governance too."
    
Senior Congress leader and MP Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was also present, said that India has more elected women in India than rest of the world put together.
    
"We have 32 lakh elected representatives of which 14 lakh are women. I don't think we often recognize that there are more elected women in India alone than the rest of the world put together," he said.

(Agencies)

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