Other States

Woman ostracised for going to court in Odisha

Bhanumati Pradhan

Bhanumati Pradhan  

Forced to migrate from village over her engagement as an anganwadi worker

A woman and her family have allegedly been ostracised for seven years in Odisha’s Puri district for opting to go to court, defying her village’s diktat, to settle a dispute over her engagement as an anganwadi worker.

Villagers, including her own parents staying in Bhatapada village under Brahmagiri block, have stopped talking to her in public due to an unwritten decree since 2013, said Bhanumati Pradhan, who along with her husband and children were forced to migrate from the village.

In 2007, the State government had issued an advertisement for a vacant post of an anganwadi worker, offering a monthly remuneration of ₹1000. A government panel had found her suitable for the post among the short-listed candidates. Three months later, the government came up with revised guidelines for the post and due to the changes, Kanchanmani Jena, another candidate, was selected and issued an engagement letter.

Ms. Pradhan challenged the government order, both at the District Collector’s office and the Orissa High Court, stating it was illegal to come up with guidelines when the selection process was almost complete. In 2012, the High Court ruled in her favour. This did not go down well with the villagers who reportedly wanted Ms. Jena to continue. The villagers refused to receive food from Ms. Pradhan, as a result of which her engagement as an anganwadi worker did not last long.

The case is now pending before the Supreme Court after another candidate challenged the High Court order in the apex court.

“I was pressurised to withdraw my claim over the post. On failing to do so, my family would have faced social boycott. I had agreed to withdraw the case in lieu of ₹60,000 I had spent for fighting court cases. But, the villagers wanted the case to be withdrawn immediately,” Ms. Pradhan said.

“When the agreement collapsed, my in-laws were socially boycotted. Since 2013, my in-laws have not been getting any help from the villagers,” she said.

The local police is said to have gone to the village to broker peace. But, the police remain tight-lipped about the issue.

“Even after so many years of independence, khap panchyats continue to exercise their authority. People’s representatives and law enforcement agencies must be sensitised on the issue. A new legislation must be thought to make social ostracisation punishable,” said Bibhu Prasad Tripathy, a senior Orissa High Court counsel.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 5:58:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/woman-ostracised-for-going-to-court/article30561458.ece

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