Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
The Gram Panchayat (GP) of Sokke village in Karnataka's Chikmagalur district welcomed its head, Swathi Thippeswamy, a software engineer, on Monday, February 15.
The village, situated in Jagalur taluk, is about 250 kilometres from the state capital Bengaluru. According to media reports, the area still lacks basic amenities including drinking water, sanitation and education. This prompted the 32-year-old who had a five-year stint in the United States to come back to her roots and work towards bringing ground-level changes.
Swathi is an engineering graduate from PESIT, Bengaluru. As per The New Indian Express, she was running a hotel till she contested and won the election. It was during her visits to the village when she started noticing the developmental gaps and how the locals were deprived of the access to the fundamental facilities.
The publication reported that her retired bureaucrat father was the reason behind Swathi's decision to contest the gram panchayat elections. He wanted substantial changes in the lives of the people in the village and co-incidentally after winning the techie is the fourth-generation Sokke panchayat head from her paternal side.
"The election has given me an opportunity to serve my ancestors' village," Swathi said.
Speaking about her immediate plans, Swathi said she would work towards streamlining the delivery of basic services to all her constituents. She also intends to set up a library for the locals and the children in the village.
She further added that education and health were at the top of her priority list. Apart from improving the infrastructure, developing hygienic public toilets and ensuring the security of girls in the village are also on her plan-of-action.
Swathi has been elected as the head of the panchayat for two-and-a-half years and reportedly has four villages under her jurisdiction. The panchayat gets funds and grants directly from the rural development and panchayat raj department of the Karnataka government. To facilitate the administration, she has also converted a part of the family property in the village to an office.
Although Swathi's husband and children live in Bengaluru, she hopes to shuttle between Sokke and the state capital. She also said she would stay at her ancestors' home for at least four days a week to work on the programmes and monitor the rest from her home. A firm believer that technology helps elevating lives, Swathi said that she wants to transform the village using her education and technical expertise and also has been working on strategies to make the corporates a part of the development.
Expressing her views on politics, she said that corruption leads to disaster and the younger generation can change the course of politics in the country. She stated that she did not spend any money on her election and advised educated people to join politics to keep the administration clean and corruption-free.
An 88-year-old is leading the Chikak Yammiganuru gram panchayat and has been working towards improving education facilities, health services, sanitation and lighting availability in villages including Chikka Yammiganuru, Chikkanakatte, Kodagavalli, Kodagavalli Hattti, Kotehalu, Hosahalli and Aynahalli villages having a population of 7,500.
Defying the age-related restrictions, Drakshayanamma sets out to inspect the work in the village and then engages with the local community to listen to their problems and come up with sustainable and long term solutions.
"My aim is to protect the modesty of the women by providing toilets to everyone in the village," said the lady who is fondly called 'Ajji'.
"Another key issue haunting the rural areas is education. The impetus should be given for this and MGNREGA should be implemented effectively for the development of the villages in Chikka Yammiganuru GP," she added.
Arunkumar, her grandson, said, "My grandmother is strong enough to rule the gram panchayat, and she alone takes care of our areca nut fields and lands in the village at this age."
He further stated that she is healthy and her eyesight is sharp and doesn't even need glasses to read newspapers or documents.
Women Taking The Lead
Stories of women taking up the role of gram panchayat leaders like Swathi and Drakshayanamma are finest examples of people working to efficiently identify the problems and implement local solutions that are aligned with the socio-economic aspects of the community.
There have been several cases where a majority of them have been leaders without power due to their lack of knowledge, expertise and experience which are fueled due to illiteracy, gender discrimination and caste bias. However, more and more women sarpanches and panches are going through intense training and awareness sessions before designing the way they work.
And there is no dearth of success stories since their ability to connect with the vulnerable masses through strong community mobilization, with a focus on awareness generation about health, hygiene and nutrition, and benefits of various government programs, among others, makes them effective leaders.
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