Misfiqua was doing research on cancer at the Delhi-based AIIMS before deciding to take up the fight against diseases crippling Jharkhand’s rural hinterland – poverty and malnutrition. Jaya Bhagat is a PhD in biotechnology who found her calling in politics in the footsteps of her father. And Lashmi Devi, a native of Bengaluru, decided to step into a male-dominated bastion in her husband’s home state.
The three, all from different social backgrounds, are among several educated women who have emerged victorious in the panchayat polls in Jharkhand, highlighting the winds of change blowing across the mineral-rich but underdeveloped state.
Panchayat polls were held in four phases between November 22 and December 12 and results are still trickling from the state’s interior areas, officials said.
Half of the seats in the state’s 4,402 panchayats are reserved for women, who constitute 82.7 lakh voters out of a 1.7 crore rural electorate. But Misfiqua, who uses only the first name, won from a traditional male bastion, busting the notion that woman win only from reserved seats. Though she defeated her nearest rival, Abdus Samad, by a mere 197 votes but her own story of change won her enough support to earn her the post of gram pradhan (mukhiya). “I have seen poverty, malnutrition, and deplorable conditions and always thought what’s wrong,” she told HT. Relatively better economically than most in the backward district of Pakur, 400 km north-east from Ranchi, she did her graduation from St Xavier’s College, Ranchi and went to Jamia Millia Islamia for Masters in biotechnology.
She quit research at AIIMs to prepare for the civil services examination and in between contested the panchayat polls. “I want to serve the people in right way and try to fulfill their wishes,” Misfiqua added.
On the other hand, Jaya Bhagat belongs to a political family by birth and her father Karam Chand Bhagat was a minister in undivided Bihar. A mother of two and a homemaker, Jaya is also doctorate in biotechnology from the Vinoba Bhabe University, Hazaribag.
Now, the newly-elected mukhiya of Boreya panchayat -- she won by 27 votes -- wants to build toilets in every household, arrange water, construct community halls, install transformers for power distribution, space for daily market, create social harmony and security that she promised to her voters.
“I want to work for all-round development of my panchayat,” said Jaya. Officials said by the time all the results are out, many more Jayas, Lashmis and Misfiquas will emerge in Jharkhand’s political landscape.
(With inputs from Debashish Sarkar, Jamshedpur)