The extraordinary life of a Dalit woman sarpanch

Nauroti Devi, who never went to a school, uses a computer for village administration.

February 04, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 08:34 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM:

Nauroti would hardly draw any attention from a passerby except maybe her traditional pallu over the head might draw a curious stare in South India.

A Dalit who never went to school, after being elected sarpanch of Harmada village in Kishangarh Tehsil in Ajmer district of Rajasthan, she trained the government employee panchayat secretary on how to operate a computer and use it in village administration.

“I carried the computer and printer into the office and used it for regular communication and also take out printouts of notices,” the septuagenarian Ms Nauroti told The Hindu on the sidelines of the recently held 20th National Congress of NFIW. She also trained a large number of village women in use of computers.

As a sarpanch she managed to overcome the opposition from the dominant Jat community and deliver benefits to the people of the village. A burial ground that was being used as a dumping yard for decades was cleared and a compound wall built around it. She also had a borewell sunk there.

As sarpanch she resumed the land allocated for government health centre and had it fenced for getting the health centre built there. She finished her five year term leaving a surplus of Rs 13 lakh in the panchayat account.

Before becoming a sarpanch as a wage labour she led the mobilisation of 700 labourers and ensured payment of minimum wages, she recalled.

She has been an active member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan from 1981 and participated in the right to information campaign in Rajasthan. It is this campaign that laid the foundation for the Right to Information (RTI) Act passed by the Union government in 2005.

Her story is well known across borders and she has visited China, Germany and the USA among others and is scheduled to travel to Pakistan soon. She reads Hindi newspapers everyday and even logs onto the Internet.

The fact that she has never gone to school she has been disqualified from contesting panchayat elections in 2015. She has filed a writ in the High Court contesting her disqualification on the grounds of not having school education

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