Haryana government’s move to make minimum education qualification as the criteria, for contesting panchayat poll, has changed the life of 21-year-old Rekha Rani.
Rekha, who works with a popular food chain in Chandigarh’s glitzy Elante Mall, has recently become sarpanch of her village Chapla Mori, Fatehabad, Haryana.
She defeated her rival Nirmal Rani by 220 votes for the seat which was reserved for schedule caste woman. The Dalit girl said
“With the criteria, I was among the few people who could contest. My father Bansi Lal asked me to file nomination. My family campaigned for me. I campaigned for a week later.”
A class 12th pass-out, Rekha is the first sarpanch from her family.
She is also the first sarpanch of her village which earlier shared a common panchayat with two other villages. “I completed class 12. Then I received training under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Kaushalya Yojana for two months. They arranged for my placement and I came to Chandigarh, where I got the job. My parents were very supportive,” she said.
Interestingly, she was not eligible for the polls when they were earlier scheduled for August.
She was not 21 then (born on October 20, 1994). Due to the plea challenging the new amendments in Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, the elections were put on hold and were conducted when Supreme Court gave a go ahead. By then she turned 21, she also had the minimum education qualification.
But, Rekha has decided to not leave her job and plans to balance her duties.
“From the beginning, my father taught me about the dignity of labour. He insisted that the first thing an individual must learn was to be independent. I will continue to do my job in Chandigarh and perform my duties as sarpanch.”
In her village, there is no secondary school and as a result many students drop out. So, she wants to upgrade the primary school.
Even Rekha had to go to her nearby village to pursue her studies. “Children of our village have to go to the next village to study. Due to this, many parents prefer not to send their children to school. I will ensure that all children in the village are encouraged to study. I also plan to pursue my graduation through correspondence,” she said. She also aims to ensure that clean drinking water is available to everyone in the village.
Students in a school in a rural area
Her father Bansi Lal, who works as a farm labour, encouraged her daughter to contest the election. According to Rekha, “Our poor financial condition never came in the way of my father giving me the same rights as my two brothers.”
Bansi Lal, who is confident that her daughter will be a role model for other girls in the village, said, “This is our contribution to the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao cause. I am very proud of my daughter.”