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Updated: May 5, 2010 23:46 IST

Bitter experience inspired her to change things

B. S. Satish Kumar
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Birasandra, a sleepy village in Devanahalli taluk, did not have drinking water supply about a decade ago. The women folk of the village had to fetch water from a pond located about one-and-half km away. As the pond water was not potable, a Dalit lady started fetching drinking water from the borewell of a nearby farm along with a few other women.

But the farm owner, who came to know about it, shouted at her and turned her back as he was not ready to part with the water meant for his crops.

This incident changed the lives of womenfolk of this village comprising mostly small and marginal farmers. Because that Dalit woman, who faced such an insult, went on to become the Bangalore Rural Zilla Panchayat president, a post which has the status of a Minister of State.

“I have got a borewell drilled in my village to provide drinking water . Because, I know the importance of the borewell to womenfolk as I myself had carried water from one and half km for years together,” recalls 38-year-old Shantamma Maddurappa, who served the 20-month term as ZP president from 2006 to 2008.

“Of course, I have got more than 2,000 borewells drilled in the entire zilla panchayat area comprising eight taluks besides taking up 100 to 200 mini water supply schemes to relieve women of the ordeal of fetching water from distant areas,” she told The Hindu.

The political career of Ms. Shantamma, who has passed her SSLC, began with her election as Devanahalli Taluk Panchayat member in 1995. She also became its president in the first term itself. “My contest was unexpected as suddenly everybody wanted me to file nomination from the seat reserved for Dalits.” Soon after the election, she underwent a short-term training at the Administrative Training College in Mysore on the working of panchayat raj institutions which gave her confidence.

She was elected as the zilla panchayat member in 2006 and also became its president. Becoming zilla panchayat president changed the life for her in terms of confidence and administrative skills as she had to work with IAS officers and also interact with Ministers. “In the beginning, I was nervous and I did not even know a bit of English. I began by asking the IAS officers to speak and also issue orders only in Kannada so that I could understand what they are doing,” she says.

She says her experience has taught her that good politics is all about taking everybody, including the opponents, together. “This is the main reason for my success,” she remarks. She brought out the multi-tasking abilities of a typical Indian woman when she functioned as zilla panchayat president and did household chores without a domestic help.

Keywords: Zeal to excel

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