Whenever we hear the word ‘Sarpanch’ it brings to our mind the image of an old grey haired man, wearing a turban and a big mustache. He is feared more than he is respected by the villagers. Chhavi Rajawat has successfully changed this image of a typical sarpanch. She is the first woman sarpanch of India. Not only this, she also happens to be the youngest sarpanch and the only one with an MBA degree! A well-educated lady with lots of dreams for her village Chhavi represents the face of modern Indian women who can change not just their own but others lives as well.
Inspite of prejudice against women taking the onus of public administration, these five women sarpanches are rocking rural India and how. Times of India has heralded her as the woman that is changing the face of rural Rajasthan. With innovative projects, she has brought better water, solar power, paved roads, toilets and a bank to her ancestral village named Soda. Not letting the bureaucracy come in her way, she has single-handedly enabled many projects in her village. She has also addressed a poverty conference at the United Nations in New York, US. The glamorous jeans-clad MBA sarpanch is an inspiration to many and is the face of the young and modern India yearning for change.
After completing her MBA from Pune, Chhavi Rajawat worked for reputed companies like The Times of India, Carlson Group of Hotels, and Airtel. Soon she realised the need to bring about a change in the grass-root level in order to bring about a real difference in India. To fulfill this dream, she went back to her village, Soda, in Rajashthan’s Tonk district and became India’s first woman Sarpanch with an MBA degree. Since then, Chhavi has been working to make the lives of villagers better by bringing better water, solar power, paved roads, toilets, bank and many other much needed facilities to her village.
Though Chhavi Rajawat is an elected representative she is not affiliated to any political party. She has been successful in providing a regular supply of drinking water to her village and helped in the construction of more than 40 roads. Chhavi said in an interview with NDTV “If India continues to make progress at the same pace as it has for the past 65 years since independence, it just won’t be good enough. We’ll be failing people who dream about having water, electricity, toilets, schools and jobs. I am convinced we can do it differently and do it faster,” This shows her dream for her people. While the average urban Indian only rants against social evils and government incompetence on social media, a modern young woman Chhavi Rajawat knew that action is more important than just sitting and cribbing.
Chhavi Rajawat got convinced to take up the job of a Sarpanch after a campaign by the villagers and meeting her at her house in Jaipur to persuade her. In her words, “The hope in the eyes of the elderly melted my heart and, on humanitarian grounds, I could not refuse, With my education and corporate experience, I thought I could play the role of a bridging agent between the village, the government and the private sector. The idea was to connect the dots by bringing in funding and expertise, and collectively work towards integrated development.”
Chhavi Rajawat has been working honestly as a village sarpanch. But being honest often comes at a cost. On 6 July 2014, Chhavi along with her father and the panchayat secretary were attacked over a land dispute. It is stated that Chhavi and her father were constantly requesting the police to provide security, but the police did not act in spite of receiving threats and previous attempts on their lives. Even this episode couldn’t break her courage and determination.
The Times of India called Chhavi Rajawat the changing face of rural Rajasthan. On 25 March 2011, Rajawat made a well-received address to delegates at the 11th Infopoverty World Conference held at the United Nations. She was honoured by late President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at the Technology Day function at New Delhi. Chhavi Rajawat was also honoured as “Young Indian Leader” by IBNLive.