Chalil Sainaba retired as a peon from a panchayat and now she is going to be its president.
It is a great moment for democracy. Chalil Sainaba, who retired as a peon from the Kodiyathur grama panchayat office in the district in 2010, will soon be it president. She who started her government service as a part-time sweeper several years ago will now be at the helm of a local body.
Ms. Sainaba will take the oath of office as president on Friday. “If you try to trace me with my home address, you may fail to find me, but if you ask for ‘Panchayathile Sainaba’ (The Sainaba of the panchayat), everyone will know,” she says.
Post-retirement, she contested as an independent candidate backed by the Indian Union Muslim League from the Chullikkaparamba ward of the panchayat. Winning the election was easy for her with her experience as an employee of the local body and knowledge of the panchayat she had gathered over the past 30 years. Even after retirement, she had worked in the office for a few more months as a daily-wage employee.
She had served in more than five panchayats in different capacities from sweeper to peon. The nitty-gritty of the panchayat administration and understanding people’s problems come easily to her.
When other candidates went about seeking votes surrounded by supporters, Ms. Sainaba visited home after home alone. “I know them and they knew me, and I needed no-one to introduce me to them or to their aspirations,” she says.
Post-election, a Congress member was made the president of the panchayat, a post reserved for women, for the first half of the five-year term based on an understanding in the United Democratic Front. And now it is Ms. Sainaba’s turn.
Ms. Sainaba, a mother of four, has her task cut out. She has identified drinking water supply and provision of housing to the poor as some of the major concerns of the panchayat, which mostly depends on building taxes and sale of sand from its four river mouths for revenue.
Puthiyottil Basheer, a former president of the panchayat, endorses the ability of Ms. Sainaba, who has served him as an employee of the panchayat during his tenure. “She knows everyone in the panchayat personally. She knows the needs of the people and how to make things easier for them,” he says. “That [her elevation] is the beauty of democracy,” he says.