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Gopalapura loses its special status

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END OF AN INNNINGS: R.M. Kamalamma (right), who served as the president of Gopalapura Gram Panchayat, sharing the achievements made by the all-women panchayat. At left is Sukanya, who was a member of the panchayat.
END OF AN INNNINGS: R.M. Kamalamma (right), who served as the president of Gopalapura Gram Panchayat, sharing the achievements made by the all-women panchayat. At left is Sukanya, who was a member of the panchayat.

Shankar Bennur

Despite being an all-woman gram panchayat, it did not get any special grants

MYSORE: Gopalapura Gram Panchayat shot to fame in the previous elections when women were elected to all the eight seats, thus making it the State's first all-woman panchayat.

The gram panchayat, comprising Gopalapura and H. Kodihalli villages, curiously drew international and national delegations after it made the headlines bringing women to power. Barring one seat, election to the remaining seats was unanimous.

The scenario is different this time and the gram panchayat has lost its distinction as “all-woman panchayat”. The reason is obvious — men want to rule the panchayat.

Despite the fact that four women (two each in Gopalapura and H. Kodihalli) have been elected unanimously in the reserved seats, the gram panchayat could not retain its reputation as the election to three seats was imminent with many candidates, mostly men, in the fray. With one of the candidates, Ramanna, being elected unanimously in another reserved seat, Gopalapura lost its special tag.

The residents have decided against continuing the practise of electing women to the gram panchayat. The reason attributed to this is the gram panchayat did not get any “special” focus. Therefore, the village heads and leaders felt disappointed and decided to force an election.

“We were under the impression that our gram panchayat will get more funds being the lone women-ruled body. Nothing of that sort happened and our gram panchayat was treated like any other,” says the former president R.M. Kamalamma.

Ms. Kamalamma and the former member Sukanya say proudly: “We were at par with men and showed what women can do if given power. All the eight of us gave ample time to governance despite domestic and household works.”

Notably, the number of Stree Shakti groups in the gram panchayat limits rose to 23 from six after the women took over the reigns. “Dairy enterprise and a fair price shop run by women cooperatives in H. Kodihalli received a boost under us and are viewed as models,” says Ms. Kamalamma.

Thanks to their efforts, Gopalapura has been identified under Nirmala Grama Puraskar. “We went door-to-door encouraging residents to build toilets for total sanitation standards. Our efforts have worked,” says Ms. Sukanya narrating the efforts made for health and hygiene.

Acknowledging the “all-women” fight for development, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha State secretary K. Boraiah, a resident of Gopalapura, said: “Had the gram panchayat got government support and additional grants, its fame would have doubled as the women were committed to make it a model panchayat.”

“It is tough to run panchayats with an annual grant of Rs. 5 lakh. Most of it goes towards power bills leaving very little for development. We had many plans but meagre grants discouraged us,” says Ms. Kamalamma and Ms. Sukanya.

There was no instance of ruckus in gram panchayat meetings and the women members took decisions collectively. “Of course, we consulted our husbands, but the decisions were entirely ours,” recalls Ms. Sukanya.

Gopalapura has five wards while H. Kodihalli consists of three wards. Election to three seats will take place on May 12 as the candidates in five seats were elected unanimous.

Ms. Kamalamma and Ms. Sukanya feel members of the all-woman panchayat should have been given another chance.

Delegates from Egypt, Nepal, South Africa and Afghanistan and delegations from Delhi, Kerala and Puducherry visited the panchayat to see the achievement.

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