SANDHYA (40), a ragpicker, slum-dweller and a migrant, was elected as a Panchayat member in Kang Sahbu village of Jalandhar Friday when two women, who hail from this village, withdraw their nomination papers.
Sandhya, who is uneducated, was born and brought up in the ‘jhuggis’. Her parents originally hail from Nagpur area of Maharashtra and had migrated here over four decades ago.
She was elected from a ward number five, where 100 per cent voters (199 voters) are slum-dwellers and originally hail from Nagpur. The village has a 10-member Panchayat, including one sarpanch and nine panches.
Her fellow slum-dwellers were overwhelmed as they have great hopes from her now for their development. “There are around 100 jhuggis here and we have been living without any power supply, water and sewerage system. We don’t have even a public toilet at a time when ‘Swachh Bharat’ scheme is being promoted across India,” said Sandhya.
She added that all these jhuggis came up in the past two decades on forest department land. “The village panchayat hardly gives us land and during rainy season all our jhuggis were under 3-4 ft deep water for days. She said most of the slum-dwellers here were working as ragpickers or daily wagers and some are involved in begging.
“Politicians come here to seek votes and make promises of providing these basic facilities each time but to no avail. Our children have no school to study in. Recently, a charitable school was opened by the church,” said Sandhya who is a mother of six. Her husband is a daily wager. “This time we have decided to take a first step, which will go a long way now,” she added.
The ward was reserved for women candidates. Sandhya’s first and foremost priority is to get water, toilets and power to the dwellers and then she will take up the matter of small houses for homeless people. “I want some employment for my people, some of whom have taken to begging,” said she.
“Sandhya would have missed the chance of getting elected because some people from the village, without consulting these slum-dwellers, had filed the nomination papers of two other women of the village from slum area ward. When we found out, we filed the papers of Sandhya,” said Tarsem Peter, president of Pendu Mazdoor Union. Peter added that the other women withdrew their nomination papers owing to evident lack of support.
Sandhya said her parents had migrated to Jalandhar in search of work and settled here in Ramamandi area, where she was born.