Dhunkapada sarpanch gets rare invite for a meet in America

Arati Devi (32), who in 2012 left a lucrative career in banking to contest panchayat polls and become a sarpanch in Ganjam district, has got recognition by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of USA department of State.

According to her, this proves that her decision to leave the mainstream track and take up social work through electoral politics at grass roots level has been proven to be correct. She has been selected and invited by the by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of USA department of State to take part in the International Visitors Leadership Programme to be held in America from February 16.

At present, Ms Arati is the sarpanch of Dhunkapada panchayat in Ganjam district. She happens to be an MBA degree holder and till 2012, she was working with the IDBI bank in Berhampur. During the panchayat polls in 2012, she decided to give up his career as a banker to enter politics that too the grassroots level panchayat politics.

According to her, the people of Dhunkapada had motivated her to take up the mantle of leadership in the area so that she could use her managerial skills for development of her area. Her father Bhaskar Bhuyan, who was head master and mother Rama Devi Bhuyan had also supported her when she decided to leave a lucrative career to contest the panchayat polls at her native village Dhunkapada. Her maternal grandparents were also freedom fighters and her paternal grandfather had always persuaded her to do something challenging rather than spending time in a banking job.

Challenging task

The decision to be a panchyat level leader was surely a challenging one. Ms. Arati had spent her school and college days in urban areas like Berhampur and Hyderabad. But she had not snapped her mental and physical ties with her village Dhunkapada. She could easily get elected to the post of sarpanch.

After getting elected, she had tried to use the theories of management she had learnt in business school in panchayat level governance. She streamlined the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the people of the village could get wheat through it.

According to her, since more than decade, the families of the village were not getting wheat through PDS although it was reaching the panchayat. Now she has started a major literacy campaign for women in the panchayat under the name ‘tipa nuhe dastakhat’ (no thumb impression, only signature). Under this project all women in the panchayat would be educated to be able to write applications and to stop giving their thumb impressions for any official work.

She has also been a catalyst to revive the traditional folk art troupes of her village.

At present she desires to spend her whole life in social work. “I have the capability and hope that in future I would try to rise in politics to prove that educated youth can be successful in it also to bring in changes in democracy,” she said.