One Day on Earth

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The determined look on her face and the confidence in her voice cannot be ignored. Neither can you miss the warmth of the close bond that binds her with the people of her village. Diptirani Rout , a 41-year-old mother of two, truly exemplifies woman power.
An economic honours graduate from Dhenkenal Women’s college in Odisha, Diptirani is serving her second consecutive term as Sarpanch( head of the village council ) of Balrampur Gram Panchayat ( village council ) in Dhenkenal district of Odisha. In 2002,she won the panchayat elections in the general category under the ladies quota, while in the year 2007; she fearlessly contested against eight men under the general category and emerged a winner.
After successfully completing almost two terms as a Sarpanch, Diptirani feels that it was her educational qualifications which made it easier for her to understand the nuances of the job. ‘’ During my first year as a Sarpanch, my husband guided me through the entire process of going through cash books and auditing accounts. From then, I have been able to manage ’’, says Diptirani with a justified sense of pride.
With 9 out of 25 ward members in her panchayat being women, Diptirani’s success has motivated other women to actively participate in Gram Sabhas ( village meetings ) and Gram Panchayats. While earlier, the Gram Sabhas would only be attended by men, having a woman Sarpanch at the helm has encouraged women to come out and be actively involved in the decision making process.
With an office even at her home, Diptirani has worked towards improving health, education and sanitation facilities in her village. She has had separate urinals constructed for boys and girls in the village schools and latrines for 40 households in her village. Now every house in her village has access to tap water. Her other initiatives include free uniforms for girls, construction of the school boundary wall and allocating funds for promoting extracurricular activities in every school. She proudly claims that every child in her village now attends school.
To ensure that children eat better mid-day meals at school, Diptirani has set up a signboard to control the quality and quantity of food distribution. She has also set up a complaint system for the people to address their grievances directly to the Block Development Officer (BDO).
In her village, all the self-help groups are functioning efficiently and earning high returns.‘’ This is the only panchayat where the food under the Public Distribution System is sent directly to the intended beneficiaries and not through wholesalers’’, says Bijoy Kumar Mohanty, an executive in her panchayat.
After attending the trainings by Peepol, a local NGO, Diptirani feels that such training programmes help to sensitise women about their rights and educate them on the working of the panchayat, the election procedures and their responsibilities as active members. ‘The government only trains us but the practical application of that training is carried out by us. We have to do the actual field work, execute policies and overcome challenges’’ she explains
With her eyes now set on the post of the Chairperson of the Panchayati Samiti ( Village Council Committee ), Diptirani Rout has to achieve many targets and fulfill many aspirations. Complete reservation for women in the electoral process is just one of them.

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