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Sweeper-turned-MLA champion of rights

Abhay Kumar, Patna, Mar 8, 2013, DHNS: 0:48 IST
Bhagirathi Devi, MLA from Ramnagar,  PHOTO: MOHAN PRASAD
Nearly three decades ago, she was a sweeper posted in a Bihar government office at a nondescript place in Champaran district.

But call it social justice or women empowerment, Bhagirathi Devi today is a four-term MLA from reserved constituency Ramnagar in West Champaran.

An ordinary woman with some extra-ordinary traits, this legislator may not be well educated but has always been at the forefront when it comes to raising the issue of her gender.

Married to a railway employee, Bhagirathi used to get Rs 800 as salary in the mid-80s.
Employed as a sweeper in a block development office, she used to champion the cause of any woman who came to the government office seeking redressal of her grievances.

Soon her family realised that she is of a different mettle and her talent needs to be utilised in an optimum way.

One fine morning, it was decided that she won’t work as a sweeper any more.
In those days, Bhagirathi’s economic condition was not good. In fact, before quitting the job, she had faced lots of hardships in bringing up her children with a salary which was quite irregular.

Social work

But Bhagirathi had already made up her mind to join social work. Quite vociferous in raising demands of her peers, she was soon approached by various political parties to contest election.

“After watching my social work, many leaders approached me to contest poll in mid-90s. The first question we discussed among ourselves was which party should I join so that I can take up women’s issues at the appropriate forum. But after much deliberation I found sab eke ba (all are the same),” said Bhagirathi, the BJP MLA, who speaks mostly in Bhojpuri.

A decade back, when she raised a question in the Assembly which could have embarrassed the RJD regime, Lalu told her, “tu hamar phua lagelu. (You are my aunt [father’s sister] by relation). So please sit down.”

But no form of coercion has deterred this semi-literate leader.

Working especially in the field of girls’ education, Bhagirathi has allowed the Anganwadi Kendra to open its office in her house in Champaran. “All I want is that girls should get proper education and they should assert their rights,” she avers before signing off.

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