The Chhattisgarh Cabinet has approved the nomination of at least one differently abled member to each panchayat, if not elected, making it the only State to have such members in all panchayats. “Differently abled people constitute 6% of the population of Chhattisgarh. As promised in the jan ghoshna patra [manifesto], we have taken the landmark step of strengthening their voices at the grassroots level,” said T.S. Singh Deo, State Panchayati Raj Minister. ‘Elected or nominated’“Every panchayat will now have differently abled members, either elected or nominated,” he said. If differently abled members are not elected through the electoral process, then one member, either male or female, would be nominated as a panch. And as for janpads and zilla panchayats, the State government would nominate two such members, one male and one female, to them. During a meeting at the house of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, the Cabinet approved the amendment to the State Panchayat Raj Act, 1993. The proposals will be tabled in the Vidhan Sabha, where the Congress holds 68 of the 90 seats. This means, said Mr. Deo, the State would have 11,000 people with special needs as members of panchayats. “We strongly believe that no one should be left behind. We are committed to empowering the common people. This is the top most priority of the Congress government in Chhattisgarh.” Meanwhile, the Cabinet also decided to drop the educational qualifications eligibility criterion for contesting panchayat elections. “It is mandatory for a contestant for the position of a panch to be at least a Class V pass, and above that Class VIII pass. In the three-tier panchayati raj system, only being literate would be enough to contest elections,” said a note from the government.