Pearl in the Sand - Tara Devi
Bikaner, June 30 (ANI): In 2000, she won the Panchayat Elections on a reserved seat. This came as more of a shock than a surprise in the caste-driven Samarda Panchayat of Khajuwala Panchayat Committee, Bikaner, not only because she belongs to a scheduled caste but also because she defeated an opponent who hails from a powerful upper caste.
Tara Devi Baghela was voted to power again in the elections held in February 2010 but this time without any credit to the reserved seat, determined as ever to bring light to the remote hamlets of the desert state of Rajasthan.
Today, the office and the premises of Sarmada Panchayat can be seen as an example of efficient governance unlike the Panchayats operational in the distantly located villages. A computer room, wall posters disseminating information on various issues with villagers coming in for seeking assistance, all draw a perfect picture of the organised office of Sarpanch Tara Devi.
In today's world, when even highly educated people are unable to handle power well, Tara Devi, a high school graduate, has set an example for others. "In the first five year term, I was not acquainted with the works of the Panchayat. I was hesitant to speak in meetings and seminars. Unaware of the schemes, I had to constantly look for help while carrying out the work," said Tara Devi, who has made it a point to maintain good relations with all the communities of the Panchayat and considers it to be one of the major reasons for her return to power.
Tara Devi did not contest the Panchayat elections in 2005. Instead of making her passive, the gap helped her prepare for the certain comeback. Tara Devi, a self-help group activist from 2005 to 2010, also joined hands with an international organisation "The Hunger Project". She also worked as a trainer in women public representative's training camps organised by the organisation.
Taradevi recalls the milestones of her unusual journey, "During my stay with the self-help group, I taught women more about developing their human resources. I would encourage them to focus on all eight targets of the Millennium Development Goal. I have decided to include this among the objectives in my second term as Sarpanch. Materialistic development is not sufficient."
Her intentions are reflected in the work done by her Panchayat during her tenure - be it health or education, she has done tremendous work which she is very proud of sharing with her peers, as she believes in the virtue of sharing work that benefits society. During her tenure, 90% of the babies in her Panchayat have been delivered in hospitals and 95% of the children were vaccinated. 95% people registered the births and deaths in their families. "When I took over as the Sarpanch, there was only one ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) in five villages of the Panchayat. I took the initiative to have two more ANMs appointed. Now, we have three ANMs, of which two are always present at the sub-centre," says a beaming Tara Devi.
The government has provided for the services, and associated officials, of five departments under the Panchayats, but the Panchayats don't have any authority over them. With whatever powers they have, Tara Devi's team effectively regulates the actions of these departments with the help of the Ward Head and Standing Committees.
Tara Devi has her way of bringing discipline not only among students but teachers as well. In Madho Diggi village, when villagers complained about a teacher who was not punctual W, Tara Devi visited the school for three consecutive days and marked the teacher absent. Now, the teacher is in school regularly, and on time.
For the monitoring of basic services like Anganwadis, Schools, Mid- Day Meals and Public Distribution System, Tara Devi's Panchayat has created an interactive committee. Tara Devi herself keeps track of the attendance of every employee of the Panchayat. The record of basic services in her Panchayat is much better in comparison.
"During 2010-2011, we provided 100 days of employment under MNREGA to those who asked for it, and paid their wages too. In MNREGA, under 'Our farm-Our-work' scheme, I have also got 29 Khalas sanctioned for irrigation facilities under Indira Gandhi Nahar Scheme.
63 houses under Chief Minister's Awaas Yojana and 21 under Indira Awaas Yojana have also been provided to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Similarly, Tara Devi facilitated the pension of thirty- five widows, thirty- five disabled persons and old age pension for one hundred and twenty people. Under the social security scheme, she proposed names of fifteen BPL families for the marriage of their daughters. The new BPL survey has not been done in the Panchayat as yet, but Tara Devi is certain that no poor family will be left out.
She remembers, "Women of the village had to walk a kilometre to fetch water. I raised this issue with the local MLA Virendra Baniwal. The new drinking water scheme is prepared with the help of water distribution department and soon the work will commence. This year, I will make sure that this project gets implemented. Through this new drinking water scheme, all the houses will be connected through water connections and women will not have to walk far to fetch water. During emergency situations, drinking water runs short, and in such difficult times water is being pumped from a tube-well through generator and stored in a nearby pond. I built public water stands in three mohallas so that the women have access to water as and when they want it."
Able leadership qualities of Tara Devi have successfully challenged the male chauvinistic mindset of politicians. She became an inspiration even for the nay-sayers. Today, Samarda Panchayat is a model of good governance and human resource development.
The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that such hand-picked women led Panchayats, if provided with additional human, technical and financial resources, can serve to teach other Panchayats how to resolve challenges successfully.
Tara Devi walked on the sand guided by no footsteps and has today carved a niche for herself. Her inner zeal shines through, her community happy and contended. y Dilip Bidawat (ANI)
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