Kendrapara (Odisha): A woman sarpanch in Kendrapara district of Odisha has accused her spouse of reducing her to titular head of the gram panchayat.

Minati Nayak, sarpanch of Alailo gram panchayat under Mahakalpada block, has alleged before district administration that her husband Amiya Nayak has virtually hijacked her power as people's elected representative.

An administrative inquiry has been ordered into the charges leveled by the woman sarpanch.     Penal action is accordingly being initiated against the husband, Kendrapara district Collector, Niranjan Nayak said.

"I am being mentally harassed by my spouse as I objected to his highhanded interference. I am not being allowed to officiate. My husband presides over panchayat meeting instead of me. Various developmental works in the gram panchayat have failed to make steady progress because of such proxy rule," sarpanch Nayak alleged in a petition to the Collector.

Many women panchayati representatives are acting as titular heads and are being dictated by their male relatives behind the screen, she said.

Theoretically women are found to be at the helm of top panchayat posts, while their spouses or other male family members exercise the power in proxy on their behalf, said observers of panchayati raj system in the district.

There are instances of husbands presiding over the periodic panchayat sessions while their spouses – legitimate panchayat chiefs - are least aware of the complexities of rules and regulations, the sources said.

(Agencies)

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