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TN civic polls: 22-year-old to head Venkatampatti panchayat, will focus on providing water in drought-hit region

R Sharu Kala, an engineering graduate, says providing drinking water at the village residents’ doorstep is her top priority

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
October 15, 2021 1:27:13 pm
Kala, a resident of Lakshmiyur village near Tenkasi, has managed to edge out her opponent by 796 votes at Venkatampatti panchayat in Kadayam Union.

‘The future of India lies in its villages’ – the words of Mahatma Gandhi firmly etched in her heart from a young age, R Sharu Kala always believed that she could bring about a change. This pushed her to file the nomination for the post of panchayat president in the recently held rural local body polls in Tamil Nadu.

Fast forward a few weeks and the 22-year-old engineering graduate is all set to take over as one of the youngest village panchayat presidents in Tamil Nadu. Kala, a resident of Lakshmiyur village near Tenkasi, has managed to edge out her opponent by 796 votes at Venkatampatti panchayat in Kadayam Union.

Five candidates had contested for the post of panchayat president, which was reserved for women, and of the total 6,362 votes polled, Kala bagged 3,336. For the past 15 years, Ganeshan had been the panchayat president. Following his demise, his wife Revathi Muthuvadivu contested this time and bagged 2,540 votes, but Kala managed to beat her convincingly. Three of the other candidates lost their deposits.

Kala, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree from the Hindustan University of Technology in Coimbatore, says she took a chance in the rural local body elections and is glad it worked out. Her father Ravi Subramanian is a farmer and her mother works as a teacher at Pulangulam Higher Secondary School. Her brother Chandru (19) has completed Class XII and is awaiting his NEET result.

When asked if her new designation makes her nervous, Kala replies with a firm, “No”. “I am not feeling the pressure at all, because I wanted to win and I have achieved it now. I am confident that I can fulfil my duties. This is a drought-hit panchayat. During the non-rainy season, we used to toil hard for water. We approached all higher officials, submitted petition after petition, but nothing worked. This triggered me a lot. I simply thought if they can’t do it, then I should do it,” she says.

Kala said the local residents gave her a warm welcome wherever she campaigned.

For a person of her age, Kala’s priorities are already crystal clear. “Providing drinking water at the doorsteps of residents in my village is my top priority. We have a pool of talent here. Many youngsters excel in sports, but they haven’t got the opportunity to exhibit their talent outside our village. I have promised those youngsters that I will take steps to make them compete at the district level. Also, constructing libraries and other basic requirements needed for education will also be my top priority,” she says, adding that a library was constructed when she was in Class V, but it still hasn’t been opened to the public.

“When I told my parents that I would be contesting the polls, they thought I was just fooling around. Once the dates were announced, I told them that I am going to contest for the president post and they realised that I was serious. They never stopped me from achieving what I wanted,” she emphasises.

She said the local residents gave her a warm welcome wherever she campaigned. “They had trust in me. All of them said I am like their daughter and they will definitely vote for me. They really did that as I got 52.44 per cent of the total votes,” she explains.

Kala’s father Ravi Subramanian had unsuccessfully contested in the previous local body election and she says two years ago he had shelled out money from his pocket to provide free drinking water to 23 hamlets around her village by hiring tanker lorries.

“There is a village called Muthamalpuram under our panchayat. Its residents cannot venture out of their houses when it rains as the entire area gets flooded. I will approach higher officials and ensure that a bridge is constructed there as soon as possible. There are other villages which don’t have proper roads, which makes things very difficult during an emergency. So such issues will also be addressed,” Kala adds as she prepares to tackle the challenges before her.

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