This article came in "View Point", the sociological e journal in January-June 2008 issue
(NDTV India telecasted the story following the publication of this piece )
Women Sarpanch implements record number of projects under NREGS
Leaders can make difference. This was proved by Ms Martha Badaraita, the lady Sarpanch of Bada Kalapat village and GP under Gumma block of Gajpati district of Orissa. The 39 year women Sarpanch, who is from Saura tribal community, has been quite famous in her area for her pro-people activism.
Before being elected as a Sarpanch this time she has been a Naib Sarpanch (sub Sarpanch who takes responsibility in the absence of Sarpanch) in the last Panchayat. During her current stint as the Sarpanch, apart from many welfare activities which she has undertaken, she has given special importance on the implementation of the flagship scheme NREGS. Her Panchayat has about 670 house holds (HH) as per the Panchayat list; but she has been able to provide 900 Job Cards to the people in her Panchayat. It may be noted here that the number of Job Cards under NREGS can well exceed the total number of HH as Job Cards are to be issues to the nuclear families, where as the calculation of the HH in Panchayats are done as per the existing ones-joint or nuclear. Therefore it is not legally incorrect to provide more Job Cards than the total number of HH in the GP. In the year 2007-08 she has been able to start and implement work of 52 lakhs, one of the high performing Panchayats in the State. Her Panchayat has undertaken various works under the scheme like, road construction, check dam, irrigation canal, and plantation and terracing projects. “Many people have been profusely benefited from the scheme o the extent that some HH even have got 183 days of work.” says Martha. One of the unique works she has done under the scheme is doing terracing in the private land of nearly 100 acre of private land in the GP.
When asked how could she perform so well in the scheme where it is faltering in other areas of the state, she says “ the training provided by IWD, a local NGO, helped me a lot to know about the provisions of the act. This accompanied by the support of people and my past experience make the programme successful in our areas., The authorities, both at the GP, block and district levels have been quite supportive to me all through.” No that many people have already done more than 100 days of work, the MIS (management of Information) system is no more accommodating the excess work days. She has raised this issue near the Collector who has assured her to take the matter in right forum to sort out.
People’s motivation holds the key:
The people’s motivation in doing the NREGS work and getting involved in every stage of implementation of the scheme has helped her a lot in achieving the mega target. She has been effectively mobilised people by discussing the benefits that this legislation would bring to the lives of people along with bringing prosperment to their villages. Even the ward members are discussing this scheme in their respective wards and creating a situation where all the villagers are considering this as an opportunity for creation of infrastructure in their village along with getting at least 100 assured days of wage employment. “Without taking the people, ward members and the officials along it would be difficult for implementation of the scheme like NREGS which involves very strict norms of transparency and accountability” tells Martha. The distressed migration of her GP has substantially com down last year due to availability of work in the GP. Even though the act expects that the system should move with the needed speed so tat people get work and wages in fifteen days; the reality differs. Most of then times after getting the applications, individual or group, we Sarpanches have to push our case near the BDO, then only work order is given and money is sanctioned/released. She also had convinced the BDO to order releasing advance payment for giving the wages to the labourers irrespective of whether measurement is done or not.
Schools’ functioning streamlined:
She has supervising authority over the primary schools. She also has responsibility toward the functioning of other level schools in her areas as a people’s representative. There is an Ashram School in her Panchayat. The teachers were not staying in the school that’s why the study of the children was suffering. She requested the teachers to stay for the sake of children and also as a matter of duty as that is a residential school. But teachers were not to heed her request. So she took the matter to the knowledge of the Collector who immediately ordered the transfer of five teachers. Now all the fifteen teachers are staying in the school. The school has 400 students in total out of which 300 people stay in the hostel and 100 are the day scholars. The classrooms and the hostel rooms were not sufficient to cater to this number of students. She along with some SHG members in the village along with some male members of the village went to meet the Collector with the request to make some more numbers of class rooms. Their legitimate demands have been accepted by the Collector and a new building is being constructed with four rooms in it.
In the primary school in Sana Kalapat village of her GP, some teachers were quite irregular for nearly three months affecting badly the study if the students. The villagers under her leadership complained against it near the School Inspector, who visited the school to ascertain the truth. Finding the allegations to be true he stopped the salary of those teachers for three months. Now, as a result, the teachers are quite regular in attending the classes.
Victory in margin numbers in elections:
This time in the Panchayat election she contested and won the Sarpanch seat with a huge margin of about 1150 votes from her nearest rival, who got only 100 votes. It was a multi faceted contest, where she got 1250 votes and other three rivals got less than a hundred each. The total number of voters is 2213. When asked how she is so popular in her GP, with a smile on her face she answers “I am in people’s politics for last 15 years or so. It’s not been very easy to win the confidence of people. I have worked hard for people with all genuineness. I have stood with the people in their bad time and helped the innocents in their need.”
An activist by background and attitude:
She has a NGO background. During early nineties she was working with a NGO in adult education, education for girl children etc. That provides her the basic knowledge on the welfare scheme. In various ways she has helped people and protested against injustice. Once she had protested and saved some girls being harassed by some miscreants while the girls were going to sell vegetables in the nearest market. Once she had saved a women being cheated by a person who was trying to snatch fraudulently the money she had got from Indira Awas Yojana. During her tenure as a Naib Sarpanch she had mobilised 7.5 lakhs from the villagers to get a water tank sanctioned from the government under Swajaldhara project. For this she had to run to meet the BDO, Collector, MLA etc.
Her husband is a teacher who is quite supportive to her activism in politics. Martha has read till 5th class, but it has never caused very big problem in understanding on how system functions and how to get her work done.
“I will give stress on health, children’s education; supply of drinking water to the villages which do not have the same” says Martha narrating her vision. The problem however is that she gets only 300 rupees allowance per month and there is no travel allowances given to them. This makes the service to people very difficult and sometimes she has to depend on her husband’s income to meet her public expenses.