Journey of an MBA graduate to Bihar’s Shadipur Gram Panchayat’s Sarpanch

We rarely hear someone leaving their well pay-off job to work for the betterment of the people in society. One such rare case is fromthe shadipur village of the Gaya district in Bihar. Dolly, a 32-year-old, MBA graduate who worked in multinational companies for almost two decades shifted to the village in 2018.

Dolly currently is the Sarpanch of 13 wards of Shadipur gram panchayat of Gaya district. While recalling the challenges she faced while contesting for the first time in the gram panchayat election she says, “A woman, an educated bahu (daughter-in-law), and a stranger to rural residents, it was challenging for her to win the hearts of voters”, she adds, “The villagers doubted if I would be able to understand them because I was a modern woman who arrived from Delhi. There was a cultural difference between where I was born and brought up, and where I was married. So, I changed my lifestyle to fit in because politics is not about you, it’s about people”.

A native of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh- began cladding sarees, bangles, bindi, and sindoor just like any village woman just to fit in with the villagers who did not even consider her their own.

She further reveals her late mother-in-law who also was a sarpanch was her inspiration in the 2018 gram panchayat elections, she won the election with 105 votes. Recalling the election campaign, “This was made possible with strong campaigning. I made my education and work experience my strength. I was the only woman contestant against seven male contestants,” says, Dolly. The villagers soon realized her potential and in the upcoming elections, she won with a maximum margin of 1,500 votes.

During her first tenure, with digitalization, she transformed Shadipur Gram Kachhehri (court). Dolly, who is the head of the panchayat judiciary says, “There were many cases wherein people had been frequenting the civil courts for over three decades, but their problem remained unsolved. I brought in systems to ensure that every process is transparent and digitally documented to make it easier for people to lodge complaints,”. With the help of lawyers and the government secretary, she solves the cases while wearing a pagdi (traditional turban). Furthermore, she adds, “This system allowed the villagers to have access to an educated and well-organized panchayat system. Now, they come with their issues, documents, and evidence. We announce the final verdict only after inspecting the case. I personally visit party homes and sites,”.

Her system setup is brilliantly executed which has helped in solving 95% of the cases in the village – from land dispute cases to domestic violence cases, and criminal cases. Moreover, she says, “The minimum life of a case in a civil court is five to 10 years. The same issue is now getting resolved within six months, without the villagers having to waste time and money to frequent the court,” speaking about her safety she said it was not a cakewalk and “I have to be vigilant about my safety because, at times, the verdict is not in favour of the opposite party,”.

Bihar was the first state in India to announce 50 per cent reservation to women in panchayat bodies. The toughest challenge for any woman is to first prove that even she can work like any other man or at times even better. To work in an MNC or news channel or even in politics, a woman had to walk on thrones to change the perception of people and society. In a general scenario, elected women’s male counterpart utilizes all the power and advantages provided to them while they sit back at home. Dolly, further shares the experience she faced after getting elected, “Villagers would come to seek assistance from my husband or brother-in-law because they did not accept me as their sarpanch. They thought I was there only to sign the documents. Even my staff did not have confidence in me,”.

She with consistency and sheer dedication was able to change the mindset of people, breaking the stereotype, from hearing the cases to going for inspection she proved her worth. She became an inspiration for the young girls, “While on one of the inspections, we came across this little girl wearing a pagdi; she was copying me. When asked about it, she answered that she wanted to become like Dolly aunty,” she exclaims, furthermore, “When I see these children harboring hope for a bright future, and when I see the smiles on the villagers’ faces when they thank me for solving their case, my decision to become a sarpanch feels worth the efforts.”

Her journey has not been easy, she continuously faces issues, regarding her life and financial security. Every month she receives an amount of Rs 2,500 for her sheer hard work. Dolly says, “There is no financial security, and this is no 9-to-5 job. Many times people knock at my door at unreasonable hours. Moreover, you cannot say right or wrong in most situations. Offering time, exercising patience, and being non-judgemental are important aspects while solving cases and are vital to understanding situations and people better,”.

Giving a glimpse of her private life she said, she used to “hate politics” and it was not even in her imagination that one day she could join the field. She joined the field to serve her people, look after the proper functioning of the rural communities and adopt their culture. One who made her journey easier was her husband, “Any politician cannot survive long without the support of the family, especially women. My husband supports me and looks after our five-year-old daughter when I am out,”.

She was re-elected by her people in 2021 for her sheer hard. Today, she changed the perception of her people and acquaintances who moved out of India for a better life and career opportunity, she says they now acknowledge her and support her.