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A lady with an MBA returns to her roots to make a change

Partho Burman| New Delhi 22 Oct 2010, Vol 1 Issue 8

In her denim trousers and kurti, she stands out in the village setting. Setting a perfect example for the adage, ‘think global; act local’, the 30-year-old MBA degree holder, who had seen the inside of the corporate world, through her stints in Airtel and Times of India, is now going around with illiterate or semi-literate villagers.

Chhavi Rajawat gave up a plum job, casting off an urban lifestyle, and decided to serve the underprivileged inhabitants of her ancestral village in Rajasthan, Soda, after the people, who fondly refer to her as ‘Baisa’, elected her as their sarpanch (village head) in February, 2010. “The villagers breached their caste, gender and religious barriers to guarantee my win. I belong to Soda and they need me,” she says.

“Being a village girl, I have had an opportunity to learn in some of the best educational institutions. But I came back to my village to work for them. I owe to this village, where I grew,” says Rajawat, who studied at the Rishi Valley School Bangalore, Lady Shriram College in Delhi and topped her MBA class in the Indian Institute of Modern Management, Pune.


Chhavi Rajawat chucked a high paying corporate job to serve the people of her ancestral village

Soda, which is 60 km away from Jaipur, did not witness any development in the past two decades, after the three successive terms of Rajawat’s grandfather Brigadier Raghubir Singh - a Mahavir Chakra awardee - as sarpanch concluded.

With a population of around 7000, Soda in Tonk district has been officially declared as a most backward area by the government. “As per a recent water profiling we got done, all water in the village has been declared as ‘unsafe even for irrigation’- the water being saline and contaminated,” Rajawat reveals.

It has been just a few months since she got elected but she has laid down her priorities. “It is too short a time to comment, but I have a master plan chalked out with priorities such as drinking water - the very basic resource - sanitation, forestation, better education, providing electricity to every household, roads, self employment especially for women, adult education and vocational training especially for the youth. In short, it's an effort to ensure a self reliant and self sufficient village.”

But lack of sufficient funds is a hindrance. To support the project, she devotes some of her time at the family-run Hotel Kailrugji in Jaipur and is hopeful of mobilizing the funds that she needs. The people, too, are confident of their new sarpanch’s capabilities. According to 32-year-old Ramesh Naik, a villager, in past six months the standard of living of the people has improved.

Chhavi with the villagers

Many villagers still cannot believe how Baisa, who earned a salary of more than Rs 50,000 a month, could commit herself to serve them with no financial benefits. “She goes to every village school and converses with our children in English. She encourages them to continue their studies. Baisa is much better than the MLA of this constituency,” declares Harilal (30), another villager.

Personally Rajawat, who does not miss city life, has a lot of passions – watching movies, reading books and listening to music, to name a few. But nowadays she has no time for all that. As she puts it: “There is so much to be done and getting work done is not easy.”

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