She was nominated among the 1000 women from India for the Nobel prize campaign. Her initiatives to ensure cleanliness in her village and proper schools for girls were acknowledged by the state government. Today,Sonia (45) sells peanuts on the railway station in Chitrakoot. With no airs of being a poorva (former) gram pradhan,not many remember her as a pradhan,although her Nihi Chirraiyya village in Karvi block of Chitrakoot has at least 5 former men pradhans,who are still quite influential.
Despite a reservation of 33 per cent in panchayats,the women pradhans of UP still have a long way to go. The Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj is trying to ascertain the fate of former women pradhans. Research reveals that most of these women,recognised at state and national levels,are not remembered as pradhans by their village folks. For them,away from power means away from limelight too.
A talk with over two dozen former women pradhans from across the state reveals that despite having held seats of power in villages,they are yet to achieve political recognition. Nirmala Devi (46) of Saharanpur,who during her tenure was awarded with the Nirmal Gram award for ensuring cleanliness in her village,now works as a daily labourer.
Says Nirmala Devi,When the new pradhan was elected,my days were over. The new pradhan is the daughter-in-law of a former pradhan,a member of a political party. She is called purane pradhan ji ki bahuriya and not a pradhan.
Sita Devi Pasi (42) of district Balrampur was nominated for the state award for excellence in rural governance and now lives a housewifes life. While the former men pradhans still sit in village meetings and have nameplates saying poorva pradhans hanging outside their houses,I cant claim to be one.