This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Prakash Gupta. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

My Stay In A Village: The Story Of Local Faith And Panchayat Politics

More from Prakash Gupta

In the 2nd episode of Amazon Prime’s Panchayat, the protagonist (a panchayat secretary) had a seemingly easier task to manage. The task to decide the location for 13 solar lights in the panchayat office was sanctioned through a Member of Parliament’s grant. In the meeting called for deciding the location, the sarpanch instantly announced that each of the 10 ward members, including Deputy Sarpanch and the Sarpanch himself, will keep one solar light each.

Thus, they were left with one light whose location had to be discussed. The scene of the meeting is an amusing one. It showed that even the local community leaders may end-up with misallocation (and even corruption) of the resources at hand. These decisions were also guided by local faith. In case of this episode, it was the decision to put a light in front of a ‘ghost tree’.

This scene in the web series reminded me of a similar incidence that happened in a tribal village located in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. I was deployed at the location to manage a project to make India’s first digital village. I stayed in that village for one and a half years.

We requested the district administration to help us with 32 street lights, as the power cuts in the village lasted for 6-10 hours a day and the electrical poles were not sufficient. The request was then redirected to the Tribal Development Department, which agreed to funded the project. However, the procedure involved took a little more than a year to arrive reach the village. By that time, the power situation in the area had gotten better.

Thus, I thought that the best way to utilise the lights would be to use them for supplementing electric poles and place them at places where electric poles are less, yet, the commuting of people is substantial. The women in the 17 self-help groups (SHGs) of the village suggested these places by mapping them.

Nevertheless, I was not entitled to take any decision, the Panchayat had to do it. Just like the episode in the web-series, the sarpanch of this Panchayat was also a woman, more precisely, a tribal woman from the Korku tribe. However, unlike in the series, the de-facto sarpanch was the Deputy Sarpanch, a male who belonged to the local OBC community, which has more agricultural land, more livestock, and on an average, better education.

Lastly, all the temples of the village will get one solar street light, even if there is an electric pole already. But, he didn’t take any solar street light for his house or lane.

While Deputy Sarpanch acknowledged the decision of the SHGs, he cited that they don’t have enough knowledge about the need of the village. He agreed to let women put their opinion in the Gram Sabha of the village. But he ended up holding a separate meeting with the women and told me that he was allowing women more space and time to give their opinion. In my opinion, the actual reason was not to let a large number of women attend the Gram Sabha meeting.

Women attending the Gram Sabha of the village was a recent phenomenon then. This was because of the confidence the women gained after stepping out of their homes to attend their weekly SHG meetings. Through various training programmes in the local government administration, essential banking and government procedures, women got enough confidence in at least putting forth their demands to the village leaders. However, they were still not confident about standing up strongly in front of the de-facto sarpanch. It is important to note that the elected women sarpanch was not a member of these SHGs.

After my persistent nudging to accept the women’s proposal, the Deputy Sarpanch said, “Prakash ji, please understand. I am a political leader, and I have to keep politics in my mind as well,” and partially agreed to the places suggested by the women.

Later, he completed the distribution of the street lights on basically four parameters. One, lanes in which the house of a panchayat member was located. Panchayat members (not necessarily the Ward Panch) may not get the light in front of their house, but they could get it in the lane in which their house was located. Two, a few places that the women had suggested, the centre of the cottage industry where all SHG women used to work, those places where women used to feel scared on getting out at night, and near key hand-pumps.

Three, the overall distribution of the street lights is likely to be more towards the cluster of houses where his community members were living. His argument was that street lights were more needed there. This was reduced substantially after my persistent request. Lastly, all the temples of the village will get one solar street light, even if there is an electric pole already. But, he didn’t take any solar street light for his house or lane. Also, the elected Sarpanch didn’t get any either. In fact, she didn’t play any role in this distribution, but was informed at the end.

The story of these 32 solar street lights is similar to that of any other resource that came to the village. Interestingly, the complete need-based distribution of the resource is not true even at the lowest level of the government administration i.e. the Panchayat. These decisions were generally an outcome of factors such as local faith, caste dynamics and power relations among individuals.

You must be to comment.

More from Prakash Gupta

Similar Posts

By joshua daniel

By malvika

By Riddhi Morkhia

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below