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Honour for child crusader mukhiya

She can be called the roaring tigress of Sirka. If she orders something, people don’t argue but get the work done; if she is displeased, they rush to check what went wrong; and, if she says no, it means NO.

Meet Manju Joshi, the 34-year-old mukhiya of Sirka Purvi in Ramgarh district, who has been selected for the prestigious Panchayat Mahila Samman, an honour conferred by Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi, for exemplary rural leadership since 1999.

Manju is the first woman mukhiya from Jharkhand to receive the coveted award, which comprises a certificate, a memento and a cash prize of Rs 75,000.

Her proactive work drew the attention of Jharkhand Panchayat Women Resource Centre, under the department of rural development, which proposed her name for this year’s award.

State convener of Panchayat Women Resource Centre Vishnu Rajgadiya said she would fly to New Delhi on Wednesday and the ceremony was scheduled for the day after.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the straightforward but modest mukhiya said: “I am a graduate in political science and belong to Jehanabad (Bihar). I know development neither comes through gun culture nor through lip service. It comes if your intentions are good and if you are a hard worker. I had political ambitions since childhood and the panchayat polls in Jharkhand helped me fulfil a dream.”

Manju was married to Vijay Joshi, a CCL quality management employee, in 2002. “My sasural in Sirka was not so developed in those days. You are free to visit and ask anyone how things it improved,” she sounded as confident as a true leader should.

Recalling some initiatives she undertook after being elected in 2011, the awardee continued: “Though my panchayat comprises people with progressive thoughts, you find exceptions everywhere. In some villages, child marriage was common. To stop the practice, I slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 each on the bride’s and the groom’s families. I threatened to put them behind bars. My measures worked.”

The ISS award, however, lauds her child health and nutrition efforts. The young mukhiya, in 2013, had conducted special gram sabhas on the need of keeping tabs on children’s health. She also held meetings for drafting of a village health plan and nutrition monitoring among children in her panchayat.


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