Women help create a Sugrama in DK

Members of Sugrama Elected Gram Panchayat Women Members Federation carrying out a shramadaan to construct a toilet.

Panchyati Raj institutions have always been considered as a means for good governance. With the 73rd amendment to the Constitution, not only Gram Panchayats came into existence, but also provided an opportunity to the marginalised section of the society like schedule caste, schedule tribes and women. Though in many places, women representatives still function as ‘proxy’ candidates under the supervision of their male members, there are several women gram panchayat representatives who have been making silent transformation at the gram panchayat level by taking bold initiatives. In Dakshina Kannada, there are few Women Gram Panchayat members who have not only set an example for male dominated society but also demonstrate that changes are taking place slowly. 

Sugrama Elected Gram Panchayat Women Members Federation (Bantwal) President Vrunda, members Lolakshi, Girija have been making an effort to bring about changes at the village-level by fighting against the loopholes in the system, helping the poor to get toilets and so on.

Vrunda is a first time Gram Panchayat member at Meramajalu Gram Panchayat in Bantwal. Lolakshi is member of Kurnadu Gram Panchayat. Earlier, she had served as the President of Kurnadu Gram Panchayat. Girija is Rayi Gram Panchayat member.

Fight against CHC

The trio had fought against loopholes in a Community Health Centre at Vamadapadavu and have been successful in setting right the loopholes to some extent.

In fact, the Community Health Centre at Vamadapadav in Bantwal taluk is perhaps one of the best CHCs in district or even State. It has scanning centre to X-ray block, laboratory named ‘Shodhana,’ heart check-up centre, ICTC and the other necessary surgical facilities. However, when the members of Sugrama Elected Gram Panchayat Women Members Federation received complaint from the general public that a private clinic ‘Preethi Raksha’ is run by Dr Durgaprasad’s wife Neetha J Attavar at his official residence and the CHC staff were charging fee from women who go to the CHC for delivery, the Federation lead by Vrunda decided to fight for the cause of the poor patients.

Speaking to City Herald, Vrunda said “running a private clinic at the official residence (quarters) is violation of the law. Interestingly, the license for the private clinic has been obtained from the Gram Panchayat (Chennaithodi) on November 20, 2010, though the GP meeting was held on November 27, 2010. It means that the GP gave the permission seven days before the meeting was held! But the clinic is being run since 2003.”

She said “Dr Durgaprasad was sending most of his patients to Preethi Raksha clinic, headed by his wife Dr Neetha, where fee is charged for every consultation. On the other hand, Dr Neetha was giving allopathic medicine though she holds only a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) degree.” Following the complaint by Vrunda and her team, the District Health and Family Welfare Officer (DHO) ordered for an inquiry on the issue immediately. The inquiry was conducted on February 19, 2011 by District TB officer Dr M Ramakrishna Rao. In fact, as soon as the complaint was filed by the Sugrama members, the clinic which was functioning from the official residence was shifted from the premises,” she said.

She said “when we went and asked Dr Durgaprasad over the running of a private clinic by his wife in the official residence, he had told us that he is a influential person and has obtained license from the panchayat to run the clinic.”

“We were pressurised to withdraw the complaint from various political parties. However, we were firm on continuing our fight against the loopholes in the system. I was supported by my family, Federation members and Jana Shikshana Trust in our fight against the system.”

On the other hand, Lolakshi said that they were able to fight for a cause inspite of pressure.

Toilet

When Vrunda realised that Nemu Poojary couple do not have toilet facility in their house, the Federation decided to dig the pit for the toilet. “However, when we realised that the couple are alone in the house and do not have children to support, we decided to construct toilet with the help of the donors.”

“Through shramadaan, we constructed a toilet for the family within three days. In fact, the Meramajalu Gram Panchayat had given Rs 1,200 for the construction of a toilet. We raised remaining funds from the donors with the help of Gram Panchayat members. The cost of a toilet had come upto Rs 4,000,” she added.

Vocational training

Vrunda is also a trainer for vocational training for neo-literates being organised by the Directorate of Loka Shikshana, DK Continual Education Association, Zilla Panchayat and Jana Shikshana Trust in 50 gram panchayats in Dakshina Kannada.

As many as 10 neo-literates in each gram panchayats are getting trained in the preparation of soaps, phenyl, soap liquid, detergent powder, bleaching powder, candle making, medicinal oil preparation, and fancy products along with eco-friendly products like cloth bag preparation, plate from areca frond and jasmine cultivation, cultivation of vegetables, dairy farming, apiculture, poultry (especially rearing of Giriraja), vermi compost and mushroom cultivation.

She has been training 10 neoliterates in vocational training at Meramajalu. Many women were bit hesitant to join the training programme in the beginning. However, slowly they developed interest. There are few more women who are eager to join the training. “In fact, several women have asked me to teach them to prepare various products. Through these vocational training, several neoliterates can become economically independent,” she said.

Through Sugrama Federation, she wants to take up shramadaan in every gram panchayat in Bantwal taluk. Moreover, she wants to take up one work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in all the gram panchayats in Bantwal taluk.

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