Panchayati Raj has a huge potential but I think it is untapped. Its execution has not been as the mandate was set out to be. But I will repeat that Panchayati Raj has potential. I think we need to understand that when we are speaking of local self-governance, we should allow it to be self-governance which I don’t see happening enough of. Of course I understand that there are certain states and districts which have been able to do well but that is perhaps because of that one individual who has the vision to allow Panchayats in the area to carry out their role as is meant to be. But by and large my experience is I don’t see that happening in my own area. Panchayats are not even respected.
People need to realise that we are speaking of the three-tier system then they need to understand that this also is a part of that system. If you are treating the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister at the level they are then they need to allow the panchayat representatives to hold that respect and to be able to deliver in the same context as you allow the CM and the PM for the state and for the nation, which does not happen.
In my own village the Gram Sabha comes up with certain decisions and as we know that Gram Sabha decisions are considered supreme at a certain level. Yet, despite that fact and also that the Gram Sabha is giving notices, the block level official intervenes and supersedes and prohibits the Panchayat to carry out its function, ostensibly protecting the rights of the public while he is trying to give the benefit to one individual, ignoring the rest of the community.
What I have been wanting to do since becoming the sarpanch is that I am being a facilitator and bridging the gap between the village and the government as well as the village and the non-government sector so it can benefit and receive the support that it needs for the life of the villagers to improve and see the development that they deserve.
When I became Sarpanch, my village was declared a drought-hit zone. We don’t have safe drinking water. All groundwater in my village has been declared unsafe not only for human consumption but even for the purpose of irrigation because of natural contamination and salinity. We have rocks underground and the minerals from the rocks leads to the contamination of groundwater. Therefore we are dependent on rainwater as a source of safe drinking water. So we wanted to revive our reservoirs and decided to work on the largest reservoir that is 100 acres. But sadly enough there seems to be no scheme so far that provides for solutions or funds for de-silting of reservoirs.
We tried to tap government funding but state government schemes prohibit the use of machinery for rural development. However, they said that you can raise funds on your own and thereby have the freedom to use earthmovers. So I collected money from my family and my dad’s friends, even a young woman entrepreneur from Delhi contributed. With that money, we were able to de-silt 10 acres of the 100 acres. That has been able to bring a huge respite as earlier the reservoirs would run dry by January or by February-end. And from February-end till the first showers happened, the villagers had no choice but to drink the contaminated groundwater.
(Sarpanch of Soda village, Chhavi Rajawat, took everyone by surprise when she gave up her corporate career after an MBA. She adopted the path of leadership at the grassroots level and has been struggling to get drinking water facilities, improving the lot of women as well as strengthening the education system in her village. An alumnus of the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College of Delhi, Chhavi as a Sarpanch has carried out many development works in her village.)