In Adampur, ‘mahila raj’ in focus during Madhya Pradesh panchayat pollsWritten By News Root | Published on Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 17:04 IST | 1661859264477An all women-panchayat in Adampur Chhawani raises hopes of better schooling and anganwadi facilities for children among villagers
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: "Children are often being denied an education because there are no government schools in this village. To attend school, they need to travel almost 5km to Pandariya village,” admits farmer Bhairon Singh Jatav, who owns a 1.25-acre farm. Jatav isn't the only one irked by the lack of a government school in Adampur Chhawani, Phanda Janpad of Bhopal district.
Labourer Ballobai agrees: “Our village suffers from the lack of good roads, electricity and drainage. But these problems fall small compared to the need for educational facilities here, which affect the future of our children.”
“There is no school or anganwadi here. Ten years ago, an anganwadi was set up in a rented accommodation. The structure is lying in shambles now. Shut since the last five years, it is being used as a shelter for animals now,” Ballobai laments. She believes it to be wiser to elect women for the Gram Panchayat, as they "might take the access to educational facilities more seriously compared to previous male representatives."
The sarpanch and 20 panchayat members of this all-women panchayat were elected unopposed this year. The panchayat members elected by this village of 3,842 people are a heterogenous lot — comprising graduates, those who are contesting elections for the first time, and also those who have only studied up to the fifth grade. Interestingly, although the sarpanch’s seat was reserved for a Backward Caste (OBC) candidate without specific gender priority, 22-year-old housewife Krishna Rawat has been elected as the sarpanch. In the previous term, though the panchayat was led by a woman — Shakun Neemnarayan — the rest of the panchayat members were male.
Local resident Misribai told 101Reporters, “Besides education, roads, and drainage, the garbage dump in Adampur is a big issue. The stink and leachate from this dump have contaminated the waters of Adampur and Haripur villages too. We sincerely hope that our women-only panchayat tackles this issue.”
Earlier, this month 101Reporters had covered the landfill disaster impacting almost 200 families of Adampur Chhawani Gram Panchayat, which seems to be the piping issue this election.
Sarpanch Krishna Rawat, who holds a postgraduate degree and was elected unopposed by the electorate, told 101Reporters that a roadmap for the development of Adampur Chhawani was underway. “We have decided to renovate the building in which the anganwadi was functioning in the past, and get it up and running. Since a year and a half, when I moved to this village, I have been seeing children attend schools in neighbouring villages. Thus, I have prioritised the setting up of a government primary or middle school here."
Explaining the seriousness of the landfill issue, she added, “There was a lot of opposition by villagers when the landfill was shifted here by the City Corporation. It now poses a major problem. The only solution regarding the landfill is to ensure that it is maintained with due diligence. We will start off by filing complaints. If these produce no results, we will resort to protests.”
Rawat believes that the leachate from the garbage landfill is affecting the water resources of neighbouring villages, and orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) are not being followed.
Based on the prize money announcement to an unopposed all-women panchayat, newly elected Rashmi awaits to disburse the amount for the school construction plan. CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan had declared a 15lakh cash incentive for a collectively agreed upon all-women panchayat. Furthermore, she points out, “There have been no roads built in our village since 2019. Neither are there enough drains; the few existing ones are in a state of disrepair. We have hence commenced work on building drains, while preparing to handle the other jobs in due course.”
Echoing Rashmi's development views, her colleague, Seema says that they intend to send across the anganwadi and school construction plans to the Zilla Panchayat soon. “If necessary, we shall take it up with the local MLA, and the Chief Minister too.”
Explaining the closure of the local anganwadi, ex-sarpanch Neemnarayan says, “The anganwadi was functioning from rented premises in the past. But owing to the sad state of the building, it had to be shut down for safety reasons. We were planning to renovate the building when the panchayat elections came by. Hence, nothing could be done.”
How an all-women panchayat came into being
Recounting the process, Bilkhariya Mandal Prashant Thakur, ex-deputy sarpanch told 101Reporters, ‘Initially, the villagers had proposed my name as the sarpanch but following CM's announcement, I thought of an all-women panchayat. We agreed to have my younger brother’s wife Krishna’s name proposed instead. Further, the village elders and ex-panchayat members agreed to it.”
Commenting on her family proposing the candidature of daughter-in-law Krishna for the post of village sarpanch, mother-in-law Kusumbai said, “When my son first recommended my daughter-in-law for the position, I was hesitant, wondering how she’d juggle our home with administrative responsibilities. But today, I’m proud of her for taking on the reins of the village.”
(The author is a Bhopal-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)