Roshni Devi is not your typical 35-year-old woman in male-dominated Haryana. Despite all odds, this Dalit head of a village council, or sarpanch, in Mahendragarh district has managed to root out the problem of public drinking.
The fight began in 2005, when Roshni, also the first Dalit graduate of Khothal Khurd village, was elected sarpanch. Drunken men used to beat up wives and evetease. Roshni and a group of women decided to take the bull by its horns.
Her sharaab band pani ka prabandh (no liquor, only water) slogan clicked with women, who supported her overwhelmingly. After a prolonged battle, open sale of liquor and public drinking was prohibited in the village. She now wants to take on bigger challenges—such as female foeticide and dowry.
Roshni advocates education. “We’ve already begun working on girls’ education in our village,” she says.
Last year, President Pratibha Patil honoured Roshni and the other women for their courage. She feels the quota Bill will create opportunities for women to become equal partners in progress.