Kamla Kujur is the sarpanch of this panchayat that falls under the Rajpur block. 40-year old Kamla, who belongs to Sanna village of Bageecha Block in Jaspur district, had come to Karji in 1992 after marriage. Her happy family of five has three daughters. Kamla has attained education till class 5 under the education programme for adults while her husband is a graduate.
The main source of livelihood of her family is agriculture that is looked after by her husband. Besides, they own a small piece of agriculture land. Subsistence farming of crops and vegetables on this 2.5 acre of land not only allows her family to fulfil their daily needs but to earn 3-4 thousand rupees per month by selling the extra produce.
Kamla was married into this village in 1992. Although she is daughter-in-law of this village but she has been a woman who loves to socialize. To help people, to listen to them, to meet people regularly is part of her life. When reserved seat for women was announced, villagers who saw Kamla as an empathetic woman, wanted her to become the Sarpanch.
They convinced Kamla to fight the elections for the post of sarpanch. Since villagers had themselves persuaded her to take part in election, she faced minimum opposition and was accepted by them. After serving twice as sarpanch, Kamla has been re-elected for the third time.
The women seat for the post of sarpanch was introduced to Karji in 1995-96 and it was then when she won the majority for the first time. Then in 2004-2005 she stood for the election for the second time and won again.
There is a long list of work done by Kamla as woman sarpanch for the development of the Karji Panchayat. Besides getting a ration shop opened in Karji Panchayat, she has got four CC roads built. Decisions related to development are taken by Kamla herself in consultation with Panch and Upsarpanch.
To understand the issues being faced by the villagers she organizes public meetings twice a month. To make her panchayat “open defecation free”, she has constituted a committee after taking approval from the Gram Sabha.
The committee that consists of five people from the village penalises villagers who defecate in open. This team of 5 people conducts surveillance early morning in isolated areas as well as in agriculture fields to ensure that open defecation is not practiced. There is a provision of fining the people found defecating in open.
An extra room has been built at the Anganbadi Center of the Panchayat to ensure that the food distributed via anganbadi can be cooked under hygienic condition. To address the health related needs of the villagers, Kamla proposed for a sub centre and after persistent efforts, she got one established in the village. 4 small ponds were constructed along with 3 hand pumps to solve the issue of water scarcity besides renovating the old hand pumps. Primary school and panchayat bhavan were also repaired.
According to SumarSaay, a resident of the village, “Kamla has worked extensively for the development of the village. She has put in efforts to solve the issue of water scarcity. Many people have received benefit under Pradhan mantriAwas Yojana (PMAY). We want Kamla to become our sarpanch again.” Kamla has worked for the benefit of the community and has gained popularity for her work.
In the initial phase of her first term, Kamla faced work related issues and was also low on confidence. “During the initial phase, it was difficult for me to organize meetings and speak in front of people. At that time, my husband supported me a lot,” shares Kamla adding that her husband used to accompany her everywhere for work related to Panchayat.
He used to help her communicate with the officers. Kamla gained confidence slowly and with her hard work and determination, she now handles the entire work on her own. She has acquired the capability to take work related decisions with the help of other members of the Panchayat. Kamla, as a sarpanch, not only efficiently fulfils the assigned tasks of the Panchayat but doesn’t hesitate to communicate issues related to the development issues of the village to the concerned officers.
After successfully completing three years as the responsible Sarpanch, Kamla who is popular among the locals perhaps will not be able to participate in the elections of 2020. The recent guidelines to contest the elections for the position of sarpanch demands contestant to be a class 8 graduate.
This is a big hurdle for Kamla to contest the elections. Despite being a part of the development and gaining popularity and love of the villagers, she cannot participate in the Panchayat elections. This is not limited to Kamla and her dreams but many women from the village, who are not educated till class 8 but want to work for the betterment of their community, will not be able to stand in the elections.
Kamla believes that in the years to come, it will be easier to find women who have attained education till class 8 as various government policies have made this possible. Parents are also sending their daughters for pursuing education but it is quite difficult to find literate women in the age bracket of Kamla. This eligibility criteria will snatch the opportunity away from these women to participate.
“Education doesn’t always guarantee maturity. I am a class 5th pass out but I have accomplished many important tasks for the development of the village. Such guidelines will inhibit women from participating in Panchayat and government works,” opines Kamla.
As Kamla is determined to overcome all the barriers, she has decided that she will again contest the elections the next time and for this, she will fulfil all the required eligibility criteria. She has decided that she will pursue further education under Bharat Mission and after completing class 8 examination, she will fight the elections. It is important to see if any other guideline from the government will create hindrance for Kamla.