Reported by Umashankar Sahu
Golachara, Jul 4:
Life is a roller coaster ride and fortunes can change in a jiffy. A Gujarat tea vendor defies all odds and goes on to become the Prime Minister of the country while a former block chairperson in Odisha now ekes out a living selling tea!
Malati Das, the former chairperson of Chikiti Block in Ganjam district, entered politics in 1997 on the advice of the then legislator of Chikiti and former Speaker of Odisha Assembly Chintamani Dyansamantaray.
An anganwadi worker at the time, she contested the Panchayat Samiti election and was voted a member from the Sumandi Panchayat. She was elected unopposed in the panchayat poll, despite being a newbie in politics.
Subsequently, she was unanimously elected as the chairperson of the Chikiti Block. She was in her mid-20s when she stepped into politics. During her term from 1997 to 2002, she served her constituency as Block chairperson on a monthly remuneration of Rs 1000.
Having gathered people’s appreciation for her work, she was looking forward to a bright political career until the redrawing of the boundaries of wards under the delimitation exercise dented her political fortunes.
The Sumandi Panchayat represented by Malati was under Chikiti Block and earlier came under the Gopalpur Assembly segment. After delimitation, the status of the constituency was changed from the general category to reserved seats for SCs/STs.
She did not have enough finance and manpower to contest the elections and survive in the power tussle. Faling financial condition forced her to cut her political career short.
Over a decade after, she regrets when she reminisces about her decision to choose politics over the anganwadi job. Now, she toils hard to earn a living at a tea stall she has set up.
With her limited earning, she has managed to provide formal education to her two daughters who graduated in the recent past. Her elder daughter has been married off and the youngest son will be appearing matriculation examination this year. Taking time out of their schedule, the duo helps their mother in her shop to share her burden. Her husband works as a priest.
She passed matriculation in 1988 and worked as anganwadi worker prior to trying her hands in politics.
This case of Malati Das belies the government claims of women’s empowerment and its efforts for representation of women in the electoral politics.