Ritu Jaiswal had decided to contest the assembly elections as an independent candidate, till she was nominated by the RJD to fight from Parihar seat.
Barely five years after she left her job in a Delhi-based public school and a comfortable life with her IAS husband, she received the Champions of Change award from vice president M Venkaiah Naidu for her work in the remote Raj Singhwahini panchayat in Sonbarsa block of Sitamarhi district.
Last year, she was among the five village heads (mukhiyas) from Bihar selected for the capacity building programme for sarpanch and panchayat secretaries in New Delhi by the ministry of panchayati raj, government of India.
She was also honoured with the prestigious Deen Dayal Upadhyay Panchayat Sashaktikaran Puraskar (DDUPSP) 2019 by Union minister of panchayati raj Narendra Singh Tomar. Out of the 2.5 lakh panchayats in the country, 240 were conferred the national awards based on various criteria and indicators.
She represented Bihar as one of the speakers at SEE Talks held at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai and was among the nine panellists selected by the National Institute of Rural Development, government of India, at the consultation workshop for mainstreaming gram panchayat development plan.
She is Ritu Jaiswal, a woman mukhiya, who is now a candidate from Parihar assembly constituency on the ticket of RJD, a party often blamed for accommodating wives of musclemen as proxies and paratrooper candidates.
Ritu has earned fame by her work in the panchayat, a rarity for a state that has often seen woman enter politics as proxies for their husbands, which is mere tokenism to the cause of giving representation to capable women in politics.
Her husband, Arun Kumar, an IAS officer who took voluntary retirement when he was posted as commissioner in the chief vigilance commission few years ago in 2018, is assisting her and is happy with her commitment.
Though fighting election was never on her mind, her visit to her in-laws village Narkatiya, under Raj Singhwahini panchayat in 2013 was the trigger for Ritu to take to public life. She soon left her job in a Delhi-based public school and decided to work at the grassroots level despite the initial discouragement from villagers, who felt she would not be able to survive in the rough and tumble of politics. But she continued.
“Later, the people, especially the women, wanted me to contest mukhiya election and I won it. Today, my panchayat is connected with a road, has solar water pumps and tanks, it is fully open defecation free (ODF) and all households and even the streets are well illuminated with lights. During Covid-19, the entire panchayat united to help me extend help to the needy,” she said, adding she would like the same spirit to continue.
“When I look back, I feel I took the right decision. Politics needs a new meaning and it can happen if more spirited women and men join it. I was preparing as an independent candidate and I am happy RJD has selected me. My focus is on changing Parihar, whichever way I get an opportunity,” she said.
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