Monday, March 03, 2014

Charting the way

Extremely hardworking, responsible, honest, kind, unassuming, dedicated are just few adjectives to describe Jayatibhai Raval, the Sarpanch of Sisrana village group panchyat of Banaskantha's Vadgaum block.  The villages of Sisranan, Sardarpura and Bhatvas fall under this group panchyat.  The combined population of these villages is around 6000. 

The early life experiences of Jayantibhai have shaped him into the person he is today. Life has always been about duties and responsibilities for him. When he was very young he battled to save his parents who were engulfed in life threatening illness. Lack of financial resources to afford medical treatment they passed away when Jayantibhai was just 15. The responsibility of raising two younger siblings fell solely on him.  Some relatives did help by giving him land for farming. The earnings from farming helped ease the financial crunch but it required him to put in extreme labour. He raised his younger brother and sister with great care and sheer hard-work.  He dropped out of school to ensure that his siblings have enough to eat and can go to school. The way he conducted himself during these years earned him great respect and praise of family, neighbors and the community.  

In 2007 during a get-together organized by VSSM and Raval community the seeds of active participation in activities of development were sown in Jayantibhai's mind.  In the gathering he was selected to be the Vice-president of Raval-Yogi community.  Over the period his work for the upliftment of the community as the vice-president was much appreciated and won him the position of BJP's Executive Committee member for Vadgaum block.  As the committee member he got the opportunity to work for all, irrespective of their community, caste or class. The most important impact was the villagers of Sisrana began to see him as a candidate for Sarpanch in their next Panchayat elections. This was an unprecedented perception as the norm in our country is that only members of dominant community head the panchayat. The Ravals are not a dominant community in Sisrana, infact any of the Nomadic and De-notified community does not enjoy that status any where in the state. In most of the circumstances the villagers are hesitant to allow these communities to settle in their village just for the fear of their dominance. The total population of nomadic communities in Sisrana is around 1200 against the total population of 6000.   Hence majority of Sisrana contemplating to nominate Jayantibhai as their Sarpanch was exceptional. It was a clear indication of the village communities preferring to choose development over caste based politics. But the dominant communities challenged the popular sentiments. From emotional compulsions to threats to questioning how somebody from a nomadic community can be a leader, the opposition tried their best to ensure Jayantibhai's withdrawal. Jayantibhai even volunteered to withdraw as he felt one does not require to hold important positions to work for the masses. However, the community vetoed his suggestion and compelled him to contest the election. The rest was history.  Jayantibhai won the elections with humongous margin.  

The work that Jayantibhai has been doing has validated the trust the villagers put in him by electing him the Sarpanch. From roads, electricity, houses, overhead water tanks and tube wells, to ensuring that the benefits of various government schemes reach the most deserving, to better and effective functioning of schools, SMCs and anganwadis,  Jayantibhai's  leadership has delivered all of these. Under his tenure of just two years public works of around 2.5 crores have been implemented.  He has roped in equal participation of panchyat members as well as the community and ensured transparency and accountability in role. Getting documents from the village revenue officer required staying home at the cost of day's earning but Jayantibhai asks people to give the details to him at any time of the day, he passes it to the revenue officer and the document is prepared.

From a sleepy village before Sisrana now remains in news for the remarkable work its Sarpanch is doing. Jayantibhai has become an example for other to replicate as it goes on to prove that one does not need to belong to a particular class or caste or community to do a good job.  It is the will that counts.