Hopes for women’s empowerment: An unusual election victory in poverty-ridden Gadchiroli district – Maharashtra

The Newtons of Gadchiroli: tribals rise to power in local body polls

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[…] This year, when Bollywood gave us Newton, the dark comedy about India’s democratic system, the tribals of Gadchiroli decided to give themselves a crack at democracy when several Gram Sabhas decided to contest the Zila Parishad elections by fielding their own candidates. They were doing this, they said, because they had traditionally been neglected by mainstream political parties. […]

Stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, the story of the 22 candidates fielded by the Gram Sabhas is one of grit and faith in the democratic system. […]

Significantly, six of them won, two winning Zila Parishad seats and four, Panchayat Samiti seats. Now, in the Panchayat Samiti of Gadchiroli’s Bhamragad town, the Gram Sabhas have a three-fourth majority, an important victory for the tribals. We spoke to four of the winners. […]

Pramila Juru Kudiyami

Of all the winning candidates in Gadchiroli, 23-year-old Pramila Juru Kudiyami had the highest victory margin.

Educated up to Class XII, Pramila is now the deputy chairman of Bhamragad Panchayat Samiti. “I never thought I would get elected. But the villagers insisted I contest,” she says. 

Pramila’s campaign team was small, but she managed to reach out to every village in her constituency and won by 715 votes. Her father was once the sarpanch of Dhondraj village and is a well-known activist in the area. Pramila followed in her father’s footsteps to become the sarpanch of Dhonraj.

In this area, most young boys or girls think of joining the police or the forest department, but Pramila wanted to enter politics from the start. She wanted the people in her area to become aware of PESA and FRA. She became a bridge between the tribals and the activists, translating the Acts and the documents in the local dialect, and explaining their importance. […]

Pramila’s election has kindled hopes for women’s empowerment in the area. As local activist Mahesh Raut says, “Hardly any woman from this marginalised community gets a chance to become a public representative.” Being young and educated and without the baggage of any political affiliation, Pramila now figures in the larger plans of the Gram Sabhas, who are eyeing some major roles for her in the future. […]

Source: Pavan Dahat, The Hindu, 2 December 2017

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Learn more about the tribal culture of Gadchiroli >>

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