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A Woman of Great Importance

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  • shaji
    A Woman of Great Importance http://anar-kali.blogspot.com/ Amarbati Markam is a young Gond tribal woman from Dindori district in Eastern Madhya Pradesh. She
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9, 2011
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      A Woman of Great Importance
      http://anar-kali.blogspot.com/


      Amarbati Markam is a young Gond tribal woman from Dindori district in
      Eastern Madhya Pradesh. She had been leading a typical rural
      housewife's life till suddenly there came an unexpected upheaval in
      2009. Panchayat elections were announced and this time around 50% of
      the seats were reserved for women. The Panch seat from the ward in
      which she resides in her village Jata Dongri of Samnapur Panchayat was
      reserved for women. Her family members decided to put her up as a
      candidate as she was slightly school educated. She campaigned and won
      the seat. However, she had no idea as to what the duties of a Panch
      were beyond putting her signature to proposals in the Panchayat
      meetings.

      Then Amarbati was selected for training by The Hunger Project. This
      organisation in partnership with various NGOs works intensively to
      train elected women representatives of Panchayats throughout the
      country. There is first a residential training course and then the
      trainees are provided support in their work as Panches after they
      return to their villages. Amarbati learnt about the various laws and
      rules of Panchayati Raj and the political techniques of getting
      community work done through the Panchayats. She became the confident
      and articulate woman seen in the picture below.

      However, when she returned to her village and tried to implement all
      that she had learned for the development of her community she came up
      against the intransigence of the Panchayat Secretary. This worthy who
      is appointed by the government to help the elected representatives to
      carry out development works in the Panchayat instead in most cases
      works so as to further his own development and that of his superior
      officers in the Janpad Panchayat to the detriment of the people in the
      Panchayat.

      A dour battle then ensued and Amarbati marshalled the other eight
      women panchayat ward members and filed a complaint against the corrupt
      practices of the Panchayat Secretary to the Subdivisional Magistrate.
      When this did not work she went with her team of women panchayat
      members to the District Collector and complained to him in writing
      with support from The Hunger Project. After repeated petitioning
      supported by documentary evidence of corruption by the Panchayat
      Secretary the Collector finally removed him from service.

      This is a huge achievement by Amarbati and her co-panchayat members
      and its great importance can only be gauged in the context of the
      reality that prevails with regard to Panchayati Raj in Madhya Pradesh.
      Dindori like Alirajpur district where the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna
      Sangath is active is a Schedule Five Tribal Area and so in accordance
      with the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act
      1996, the Gram Sabha or general body is the most powerful body in
      Panchayati Raj. However, taking advantage of the illiteracy and
      general lack of awareness of the tribals the Chief Executive Officer
      of the Janpad Panchayats at the Block level through their minions, of
      whom the last link with the citizens is the Panchayat Secretary,
      effectively wields all the powers and together these officials
      defalcate funds at will. The Panchayat Secretaries are paid only
      Rupees Two Thousand Five Hundred a month as salaries. Yet they do not
      reside in the Panchayats but in the nearest market villages or the
      Block headquarters where they have built big pucca houses and commute
      occasionally to the Panchayats by motorcycle. The big house of the
      Panchayat Secretary of Umrali Panchayat in Sondwa Block of Alirajpur
      district is shown below.

      The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has been waging a long drawn battle
      against the corrupt Panchayat bureaucracy for quite some time now and
      has managed to remove only two Secretaries so far. The main reason for
      this lack of success is that the corrupt Panchayat bureaucracy manages
      to coopt the elected Sarpanches or Panchayat Chairpersons and Panches
      into the system of graft and so thwart the decisions of the Gram
      Sabha. Thus, Amarbati's determination and success in the face of this
      kind of corrupt intransigence on the part of the Panchayat bureaucracy
      that must be there in her area also in getting her Panchayat Secretary
      removed is indeed a commendable achievement. All the more so because
      most elected women representatives throughout the country just put
      their signatures and it is their men folk who actually exercise their
      powers due to the overwhelming patriarchy that rules rural Indian
      society. This is anarchist and feminist activism of the highest
      quality. There are lakhs of women Panches and Sarpanches throughout
      the country but very few of them are provided with the training and
      later support that Amarbati has got due to the intervention of The
      Hunger Project. Otherwise Panchayati Raj in this country and
      especially in tribal areas would have transformed the face of the
      rural countryside and the lot of its oppressed women.
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