Pune village cheers 94-year-young sarpanch, she says let’s get to work

Fondly called aaji or aayee by villagers, Gangubai holds the distinction of becoming the oldest sarpanch in Pune district, Saurabh Rao, the district collector, said.

Written by Manoj Dattatreya More | Pune | Updated: September 8, 2016 2:55 pm
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On Tuesday, when 94-year-old Gangubai Nivrutti Bhambure was elected unopposed as sarpanch of Bhamburwadi village in Pune district’s Khed taluka, she seemed bored with the felicitation and the praises gram panchayat members showered on her. So much so that she left the event early to mingle with villagers instead.

“I will not disappoint them… I can walk like a youngster and talk like a teacher,” said Gangubai, who made another round of the village on a hot Wednesday afternoon. “Nothing affects me, rain or sun,” she said.

Fondly called aaji or aayee by villagers, Gangubai holds the distinction of becoming the oldest sarpanch in Pune district, Saurabh Rao, the district collector, said.

“Now it’s time to work. I have to do something for my people, otherwise it’s no use becoming a sarpanch just for the sake of it,” she said.

As activists, government officials, students and the media crowded her home, Gangubai seemed at ease with all the attention. “I love talking to people… I am not hard of hearing; I understand each and every word,” she said.

Gangubai said her first task would be to help around 250 farmers from seven villages. The farmers own a total of 1,000 hectares of land, but lack of water for around eight months each year means they can’t grow anything on it.

“There’s a canal less than 2 km from these farms, but they don’t get a drop of water,” said Gangubai’s grandson Rahul Bhambure.
Another grandson, Navnath Bhambure, said the government had failed the people.

Gangubai said she would approach the Prime Minister to set up a closed pipeline from the canal or from Chaskaman dam to irrigate the farms. “I will send a letter on behalf of the villagers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” she said.

She said she is optimistic the PM will respond to her request: “Why not? PM Modi is like my son. My oldest son is 66 years old and I am told the PM is around the same age… I am sure he will pay heed to the voices of farmers.” Then, on a lighter note, she added that she would not mind if Modi paid her and her village a visit.

Gangubai said the seven villages are home to 15,000 people. The farmers primarily grow onions.

Other priorities include a proper drainage system, sufficient toilets, homes for the poor and good roads.

Asked whether she was urged by her family to contest the gram panchayat elections in October last year and polls for the sarpanch post now, she said, “I take my own decisions; I even have disagreements with my children.” Gangubai, who has four sons and a daughter, lost her husband 10 years ago.

Gangubai was elected by a margin of 50 votes in October after defeating another woman candidate, a graduate from a political family. Though she never attended school, Gangubai said she can read. “I can recite kirtans and bhajans,” she added. On Tuesday, when she was declared the victor, Gangubai put a thumb impression on the official documents.

Asked whether she is fit enough for the job, she said, “I get up as 5 am and do household chores. I never fall ill and never take medicines.” She added that she eats two meals a day: “Eat less and live longer — that’s my secret of life.”

Shirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil said that while Pune district has had other woman sarpanches, they have all been under 60 years of age.

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  1. H
    H bhagavatheeswaran
    Sep 8, 2016 at 6:18 am
    Fantastic acheivement well done aayee keep helping poor people
    1. A
      avinash sahay
      Sep 8, 2016 at 7:01 am
      Gangubai proves that aging is a myth, just a number. The human species is as old as the sun and the stars, the ocean, river and the valleys, the plants and the animals. The human cells derive sustenance from the sun, plants and water in an endless food chain that lasts forever.lt;br/gt;I think our present human psyche is too much brutalised and brainwashed by the ruling paradigm.We don't really LIVE , we actually die a bit every day.
      1. X
        Sep 8, 2016 at 12:45 pm
        Aaji let the fireworks begin.
        1. V
          Sep 8, 2016 at 3:13 am
          If some body is appreciating the selection of 94 years old lady as sarpanch then they have lost their ability to think . This is nothing but a smart way of cheating people by making the various family members from the same family head of power .lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;People are stupid and can be cheated very easily and what surprises me is even the news papers and their reporters praise such stupid act .Shame on Democracy .
          1. Y
            Sep 9, 2016 at 10:43 am
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