Unlike most college-goers who aspire to become the college president or the ECA (extracurricular activities) head or a society leader, Vasundhara Choudhary, a third year Psychology Honours student from Delhi University (Gargi College) decided to take a different route.
Much to her surprise, in 2015, she was elected as the youngest sarpanch of her ancestral village Lilawali (Hanumangarh district, Rajasthan), albeit unopposed! “It was like a dream come true. Being young and a qualified student from a prestigious university is what made me one of the most qualified candidates for the post,” says Vasundhara, who wants to help the women of her village question the conservative norms they have grown up with.
Managing her time between studies, career and responsibility at Lilawali, Vasundhara is happy to have met most of her goals for the year. “We worked on building roads and improving the existing ones in Lilawali after I took up my post. Construction of toilets in the village and spreading awareness about having washrooms in every household was also promoted this year. Lack of education is one of the biggest challenges that I have come across. After I took this job, we have expanded the premises of the school by building more rooms and tried to accommodate a larger number of students,” says Vasundhara.
She adds, “The current focus is on roping in more teachers and improving the school curriculum.” Vasundhara and her team have already planted over 3,000 trees in and around the village. “The target is to plant at least 15,000 over a period of five years,” she says with an air of confidence and adds, “Apart from this, we are also planning to install a biogas plant in the village. Among other things, the cleanliness and hygiene of water storage tanks is being looked into. Another top goal is to make women self-reliant by creating more employment opportunities.”
As she bid goodbye to the eventful year, Vasundhara already has a meticulously laid out plan for this year. She puts forth, “One of the topmost priorities is to try and acquire a solar panel under the national solar mission to at least run the school. Along with my team, we are also trying to organise book distribution for kids. Efforts are also being made to encourage boys and especially girls to pursue higher education. The focus is also on providing employment opportunities for the poorer section of society by setting up an industrial training institute this year. Through self-help groups, vocational training will be also promoted.” Elaborating on her future plans, she says, “For the third, fourth and fifth years of my tenure, things are still not concrete but we have plans to make agriculture more secure and make farmers aware of the quality of soil, the soil health card scheme etc. among other objectives.”
With a positive outlook and a practical approach, Vasundhara hopes to bring a wave of change in her village. “Bringing about a complete change in a limited period (just five years) is only an ideal concept but I can broaden the mindsets of people and set an example for the young generation to take up career choices like mine.” The young sarpanch concludes, “Everyone should be confident enough to stand up for what they feel needs to be changed.”