Updated: December 16, 2021 9:35:55 am
Among the candidates for the upcoming gram panchayat polls is a Mumbai-based model, contesting for the sarpanch post from her native village in Chhota Udepur.
Aeshra Patel, 34, says that it was during the Covid-19 lockdown, when she spent her days at home in her village, Kavitha, in Sankheda taluka, that she realised “what was lacking” in her village.
“When I stayed at home during the lockdown, I realised how much the village still has to achieve. There is a dearth of schools, transportation, healthcare… Even during the pandemic, the villagers could not even grasp what Covid-19 was about. There were no doctors immediately available. There were times when I contacted doctors and brought medicines prescribed to treat patients showing symptoms,” Patel, a Miss India 2010 finalist, told The Indian Express.
Patel had grown up in a farmer family – her father, Narhari Patel, has also served as a sarpanch from 1989 to 1994 and 2012 to 2017, and was a member of the BJP. She moved out from the village in the early 2000s at the age of 17, first to pursue physiotherapy from a private college and then to make a successful modelling career in Mumbai, winning the popular supermodel contests and was the Ford Supermodel runner up in 2009.
The 34-year-old says she decided to contest the polls after requests from the villagers.
“I have always been interested in the lives of people in this village and they know me well, which is why they requested me to contest this time. My father was a sarpanch and I used to idolise him when he stood by the villagers seeking his help; he used to go out at any time of the day to help people. I have imbibed his values of social service. Today, the elected representatives have so much vested interest that they are not even approachable,” she said.
Patel believes that her “good work” during the pandemic will be rewarded.
Stating that she plans to stay back in her village regardless of the poll result, Patel said, “The recent unseasonal rain has caused so much damage but the villagers do not know whom to approach for the compensations; widows complain to me that they haven’t received their pensions for over four months. In my individual capacity, I have tried to help everyone as much as I can but this is the task of the government and if I am in a position, where I can ensure that the benefits of the government schemes reach the people, it will help the village prosper.”
According to the 2011 Census, the total population of the village is 2,601 with 74.4 per cent of them belonging to Scheduled Tribe and 0.4 per cent belonging to Scheduled Caste. The village has 48.1 per cent population of females and a literacy rate of 50.7 per cent.
Over 9,200 villages in the state are due to go to polls on December 19.
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