Gobar Times
Open Forum

Chhavi Rajawat

Along came Chhavi

How would you imagine the sarpanch of a Rajasthan village to be? What do you think would be the credentials of this elected representative? Well, now is when you stop thinking about clichés. Why? Because we are talking about a woman who chose to break them herself!

Chhavi Rajawat, 30, is India's youngest sarpanch of a village called Soda, located 60 kms from Jaipur. She is a product of elite education institutes like Karnataka’s Rishi Valley School and Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College is the only village head with a management degree. She quit her high-flying corporate job to go back to her roots – her father and grandfather have both served as the village sarpanch.

Chhavi was a cause of major disbelief at a recent UN meet. International delegates could not believe what they were witnessing – an educated, electoral representative speaking about the role of civil society in fighting poverty and promoting development. And a woman at that too!

■ Why should the youth of today consider politics as a serious career? Can they bring about a change? How?
If people wish to see India develop and progress it needs to be done in totality – both in urban and rural sectors. All those who grieve about the conditions in India do not have a right
to do so unless and until they also contribute towards making a difference.
   Development is not the responsibility of the government alone. If the machinery does not work, then we, as citizens of India, are equally responsible for allowing it to rust and crumble.
Each individual has the ability to be that agent of change.
   One just needs to stop having a laid back attitude and act, instead of waiting for someone else to act for them! We all feel a change is needed. So why not act on it?

■ Are there any environmental movements that were successful in your area because of people’s participation?
Oh yes, our water conservation project. Apart from scarcity of water, the little ground water that exists had been declared unsafe even for the purpose of agriculture owing to high contamination and salinity. So conserving rain water was the only solution to safer drinking water.

● The largest reservoir of the village covers an area of 100 acres but it no longer has the capacity to store water. So we decided to dig it afresh and strengthen it. Given the area and hard soil, machinery (earthmovers) was required to excavate the soil. Unfortunately, the state schemes prohibit usage of machinery so we were told to carry out the project independently – raising funds to the tune of ` 3 Crores, as per the government estimates.
● We approached many NGOs as well as public and private sector companies for funding but have till date not received help from anyone.
● The entire village voluntarily got together to excavate the soil but the proposition did not appear practical. So, with support from the locals and my family and friends, we have now collected ` 20 lacs. Today, the area excavated with this money is the only area to hold water which otherwise would have run dry by February, this year.

■ Has the system become more responsive?
I sincerely believe it’s in the hands of the people to trigger any response. Some states have done better than the others but there is a lot to be done across the country, across all regions.