While we read articles and swipe through videos on Facebook, we cannot ignore the pitiable state of our villages. India may be developing technically but our villages are not getting their due share. All through this race of growth, the villages in India continue to lag far behind. The urban population feels proud of being a part of the modern India and look down upon people from villages.
But is it not our collective duty and responsibility to develop our villages? Despite several schemes run by the government, there is no improvement in the situation of most villages. At some places, the situation is getting worse with every passing day. Such circumstances arose only because of the educated mass of our society are not working at grassroots level. So, the village people continue to face age-old problems and are unable to join the mainstream of development.
However, there are a few exceptions among the younger generation who are trying wholeheartedly to change the current scenario. Ritu Jaiswal is one such personality who has worked solely for the development of our villages. Her dedication as mukhiya of a village in Sitamarhi district, Bihar, has completely transformed its fate. The happy villagers compare their village with Ram Rajya (the perfectly-ruled state by Lord Rama).
Ritu Jaiswal is the wife of IAS officer Arun Kumar Jaiswal from Delhi. You may be wondering why would a wife of an IAS officer choose to work for a remote village. After all there’s no reward or anything in return. It started when she discovered Sitamarhi, her in-laws’ place, and discovered that people were in acute misery here. She decided to resolve their issues and bring about a positive change.
Sticking to her resolve, Ritu bade goodbye to her dazzling life in New Delhi and started living in the village. She now became the head of Singhwahini panchayat in Sonbarsa block, Sitamarhi. Ritu, with her powerful leadership quality, has written a new chapter in the development of this panchayat.
It was not easy for Ritu to leave her two small children in Delhi with her family and shift to the village. But she finally took this decision for the betterment of so many deprived families of the village. Once, while she was going to the village, her car got stuck in the mud some distance away from the village. Even after repeated attempts, the car could not be pulled. She then tried to go to the village in a bullock cart. But that too got stuck in the mud after some time. Her own ordeal made her realize the fate of these villagers who have no chance in escaping this sorry state of even basic facilities.
My husband and daughter supported my decision. My daughter said, we will stay in the hostel and you go to the village to teach the children. Her words gave me courage and I enrolled her in a residential school and went ahead to transform the village panchayat.
In the year 2016, Ritu contested for the post of mukhiya from Singhwahini panchayat. Her victory was, however, not easy. There were a total of 32 candidates contesting for the post. Ritu spread awareness among the villagers and urged them to not to waste or sell their votes for caste or money. The villagers understood the point and made her victorious with a high margin. Now, the responsibility of the development of the village came on the shoulders of Ritu. She started reforming a village where there were no roads, electricity, mobile tower, or a robust education system even after 70 years of independence.
Instead of waiting for the government funds to arrive, Ritu started working for the development of the village from the very next day. She took an oath to use money from her own pocket. Initially, the villagers were not ready to give even an inch of their land for making the roads. But, after realising the efforts of Ritu they finally agreed. In the coming time, the village saw good roads after overcoming countless challenges. Currently, the village has paved roads all around.
For the first time in the history, electricity came to this village. This was the time when Ritu concentrated on improving the educational standard of the village. She made a documentary on the village and showed it to some NGOs. With their help, she started a tuition class for the children in the village. She got a reward soon when 12 girls from this village passed the matric examination. Her next objective was to build toilets in every home in the village. Earlier, 95 percent of the homes in the village did not have a toilet; people used to defecate in the open grounds. She converted the whole panchayat free from open defecation and built a toilet in every home of the village in just three months.
Ritu monitored all the developmental works herself. For this, she was even seen riding a motorcycle and a JCB tractor. For her outstanding work, she received the “Uchh Shikshit Adarsh Yuva Sarpanch (Mukhiya) award of 2016 as the mukhiya of the Singhwahini panchayat. Ritu is the only mukhiya from Bihar to receive this honor.
It is really heartwarming to see a woman coming forward to help the development of the remote villagers after leaving behind her families including small children. Any praise will fall short for Ritu who also sacrificed her luxurious personal life in Delhi.