Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): A former US researcher who had worked with AIIMS, New Delhi for many years, has been elected as Gram Panchayat sarpanch unopposed in Mehra village in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh.
The village body in has earned the distinction of Samras Panchayat, as all the officebearers of the panchayat are women, a pre-requisite put up by the elected sarpanch-Maya Vishwakarma, lately known as the ‘Pad jiji’ among rural women, due to her extensive endevours of promoting menstrual hygiene.
“When the sarpanch seat fell into OBC category this time, the villagers wanted someone from my family to be the candidate and when I was pushed to be the panchayat head, I made it clear that it should be a unanimous decision for all the posts and all the officebearers should be women,” Vishwakarma said speaking to FPJ over phone. Plus the additional funds allocated to samras panchayat were propagated by me before villagers as an added advantage for development works, she said.
Then a mahapanchayat was convened and villagers agreed to have a unanimous election this time and only 12 nominations were filed for the dozen posts of the village body, she Vishwakarma who had worked with AIIMS, New Delhi from 2003 to 2008-09.
To add, Mehra village situated around 100km from district headquarters, never saw a unanimous election since the inception of Panchayati Raj in the country. A local resident wishing anonymity even claimed that the poll rivalry was so intense that it took almost five years to normalize relations among villagers which saw sharp divide due to election rivalry. As relations normalized, another election would approach, the local said.
To add, Vishwakarma with her scholarly background and strong connect to social endevours of late, came as an obvious choice for the locals.
The 39-year-old, who was earlier working as a researcher on leukemia at the University of California (US), had come back to India in 2014 resigning from her job and has established a sanitary pad manufacturing unit aided by all-women staff at Dedwara village in Narsinghpur. She also works for promoting menstrual hygiene among women and engages in awareness endevours. The endevours earned her an address ‘Pad iji’ (pad sister), as the women used to call her by this name. Besides sending sanitary pads to across the MP, her manufacturing unit also supplies this essential commodity to many states on demand.
Having founded a volunteer organization—‘Sukarma Foundation’, in year 2016, Maya has established a tele-medicine centre in the village, a vocational computer centre for women and kids in Saikheda town and a sanitary pads manufacturing unit in Narsinghpur with a production capacity of around 30,000 a month which are sold for Rs 25 per pack, carrying 6 pieces.
Since 2020, her NGO had engaged in extensive relief work when Covid 19 had struck the country and thousands especially migrant labourers saw a crisis of their lives. Her organization had channelized foreign aid to help out those in distress.
For long, I have a plan to have a state of the art government school in my village. Plus I will work for power availability, better roads and health, said Maya while asked to spell out priorities. This time we collectively decided to have a Samras panchayat and we all expect that women led by our daughter Maya will take the village forward, said Jai Hind, a government school teacher who taught Maya from class I to V. Asked how proud he was on his student’s election, the teacher said he was so happy as Maya was like a daughter to him.
To add, Maya Vishwakarma has also been associated with Aam Aadmi Party . She however chose to disown her political linkages saying, “It was a village decision taken collectively and there is nothing like political association or patronage in panchayat polls, so it’s my village’s win, not a victory for any party or organization.”