I 210. (May 03, 2019): Phuljara Devi becomes Gram Panchayat Pradhan:

She is from Chari ka Purva in Pahadpur Gram Panchayat of Amava block in Raebareli district. She is the Pradhan of the Gram Panchayat.

The story of Phuljara Devi (50), who never went to school, is mindboggling. She joined the Archana SHG in the year 2006. At that time, like any other village woman of her lot, she was a purda clad, shy, ignorant woman. She had never even seen a bank. She was so much afraid of police.

Her family had three bigha of land only for namesake. Nothing grew on this land as it remained undulated and mostly saline. Thus the family had virtually no income and she found it very difficult to educate her children.

Now, after 12 years in SHG, if somebody asked her what her educational background was, she would promptly say in a lighter vein “BA final”. Such is the education, empowerment and transformation she gained through the SHG movement.

Once in SHG, she mustered courage and started speaking. Also learned to put her signature instead of thump impression. Her economic empowerment started with her purchasing a cow by taking a loan of Rs. 1200 from her SHG. She started generating income through sale of milk. Once she repaid the loan, she became courageous enough to take another loan of Rs. 50, 000 from SHG and purchased a high yielding buffalo and started a remunerative dairy.

Her colleagues in the SHG were of similar situation. All had land but no cultivation due to the fact that land was undulating and uncultivable. SHG members discussed and reached the conclusion that if they could have a tractor, they could develop their land properly and start cultivating. Members had already recognized the leadership and ability of Phuljara Devi. When the group was sanctioned a Cash Credit Limit by bank, the members decided that the amount might be utilized for buying a tractor. Phuljara would buy it and maintain it. She would repay the loan. All members would get enough tractor-time for just diesel cost. This worked well. Phuljara purchased an old tractor by availing 190,000 from SHG with the agreement of all members. The arrangement worked very well. All members started farming and improving their life. Eventually, as her economic condition improved, Phuljara Devi was able to purchase a new tractor. Her youngest daughter is now studying for BA final.

Her exemplary leadership and willingness to help others made her a natural leader in the Panchayat. Her village organization gave her courage to contest the Panchayat elections in the year 2015 against a powerful incumbent Pradhan (male) who had been Pradhan of the Panchayat for the previous 35 years! It was a tough contest and she won by a margin of 100 votes, despite all tactics played by the long term Pradhan. After her victory, the ex Pradhan played tricks and she was able to swear-in as the new Pradhan only after lot of struggle by her along with her ever supportive SHG members.

This courageous woman with the support of her SHG members succeeded in breaking and entering in to the male domain of local self-governance and she is proving to be a successful Pradhan.

P S Mohanan, 03 May 2019