Barely 20 km from Ghaziabad city, a village is in the throes of a revolution. At the center of this revolution is 40-year-old Asha Devi, the pradhan (head) of the Chauna village. A typical village woman, Asha Devi doesn’t forget to cover her face when she sits among the village elders. But she doesn’t shy away from taking tough decisions, either.
At a time when the Women’s Reservation Bill is being debated, Asha Devi has managed to ban both dowry and ostentatious weddings in her village. She has also persuaded the men to give up liquor.
All this came about on Sunday, when Asha Devi called a panchayat and placed before it her proposals. The proposals were accepted unanimously.
“We decided that weddings will be held without dowry demands, that wedding ceremonies would be a simple affair, and only small gifts conforming to customs will be allowed. This will reduce the pressure on parents who think their daughters are a burden,” she said.
But this victory didn’t come easy. It took Asha Devi a year to unify the villagers and get the panchayat’s unanimous decision. “These suggestions came up twice earlier but didn’t get support. But with a lot of persuasion, people accepted these suggestions as a means for our village’s welfare,” she said.
Her husband, Devendra Singh, has supported her throughout her efforts. Asha, who studied till class VIII, said her decisions, as a pradhan, would benefit the people, especially the women, of her village. “The panchayat’s decisions were supported by male members and the women also backed them,” she said.
“We had a number of people who drank daily and caused public nuisance and fought with their families. We have now decided to give up alcohol,” she said.
The results have been more than she could have asked for.
It has been more than two days since the panchayat’s decision, and 90 per cent of habitual drinkers have abstained from alcohol, said Vijay Pal Singh, a resident.
“I have also called it a day and am impressed with the pradhan’s decision. My wife has stopped scolding me since then,” said Bhram Pal Singh.
This was not all. Loud DJ music, fireworks and firearms during social ceremonies, festivals and weddings will not be accepted at the village anymore.
“Fireworks cause pollution. DJ music and stage performances, cause clashes apart from unnecessary expenditure. Henceforth, no firearms would be used during marriages as it is just a display of power and can lead to casualties,”
said Kamlesh, Asha Devi’s friend.
Further, the panchayat also directed all election aspirants to not distribute liquor as a means to collect votes in the forthcoming local Panchayat elections in 2010 end.
“We will not support candidates who use liquor as a tool to get votes,” Asha Devi said.
And it’s not just the villagers who are happy. The police officials are elated. “The panchayat has set an example. We are urging the neighbouring villages to come up with such decisions to root out evils of dowry and alcohol from the society,” said SP Capt. M.M. Baig.