A village that heralds change, a panchayat that celebrates women, and the “selfie with daughter” idea that made national headlines…what’s not to love about Bibipur, Haryana?
Mention the state of Haryana and what immediately comes to mind is probably the skewed sex ratio in favour of boys, honour killings, and the general low status of women. But, from within this dismal world has emerged a shining example of hope. Bibipur, or ‘the women’s world’, is a village that is an inspiration for lakhs of other villages around India.
The face of Bibipur changed when Sunil Jaglan, an MSc degree holder, was appointed sarpanch of the village in 2010. Yes, he is the same man who has recently created headlines with his unique “selfie with daughter” campaign.
From fighting for the rights of women to bringing technology into the lives of the villagers, this super sarpanch has left no stone unturned to change the way Haryana villages are perceived.
“As everyone knows, Haryana has a very poor sex ratio…we focused on solving this problem by spreading awareness about women’s issues and bringing women into the limelight,” says Jaglan.
The first step was to organize a mahapanchayat where thousands of women from nearby villages gathered and talked about the sensitive issue of female foeticide. They demanded an amendment in the Indian Penal Code to book the culprits of female foeticide with charges of murder.
“This mahapanchayat, where the women stood shoulder to shoulder with the khap panchayat, received a great response. It gave the women an opportunity to speak their minds, which they were not able to do earlier,” says Jaglan.
In order to bring more attention to the female foeticide issue, this sarpanch organized several awareness campaigns and events. He launched an initiative to bring granddaughters and grandmothers together on the same platform to give all the generations equal importance. The idea was to bring women of all age groups out to talk about their issues and share their stories.
To date, the Bibipur panchayat has organised over 50 seminars to sensitize the villagers on the subject of female foeticide.
“In villages where people had not even seen a computer, we used technology to spread awareness. We showed them videos on female foeticide and organised debates and seminars. Our village has a big stage/dais where we organise regular events. Women actively step up to the podium and talk about the issue,” says Jaglan.
The Bibipur panchayat has also started a women-centric library, which has a collection of over 900 books on women.
From women empowerment to teaching basic skills and their rights, the books cover a vast variety of topics.
The people of Bibipur do not just believe in talking and debating on issues; they have created a positive impact through their actions as well. Forty women oriented gram sabhas have been created in Bibipur. Again, these gram sabhas serve the purpose of bringing women out of their houses, discuss issues and look for possible solutions.
Once the Bibipur panchayat’s work started showing positive results, the village received recognition and various awards from the government. The entire prize money was again spent on the development of the village.
The Bibipur panchayat has won a national award of Rs.1 crore, the Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puruskar of Rs. 10 lakhs, and the Sashaktikaran Jawaabdehi Abhiyaan Puruskar of Rs. 15 lakhs. The latter two awards were grabbed by the Bibipur panchayat after Jaglan applied for them. It was the first time any panchayat received these awards.
“If any village panchayat in the country wants to apply, it can contact the deputy commissioner of the village who gets information on such awards from the state,” says Jaglan.
Bibipur has been receiving many RTI enquiries about the work of the panchayat from across the country. Jaglan has used technology to the advantage of the villagers and computerized the process so that RTI enquiries are received and responded to by email now.
The reason behind bringing the entire process son internet was to provide quick responses to the queries of the RTIs and make the interaction faster.
The tech-savvy village also has its own website where the latest updates and developments in the village are posted on a regular basis.
Jaglan is on a mission to make the village more technology friendly in the future.
“We put the entire system in front of the villagers to maintain transparency and ensure that panchayat funds are being utilised in the right way,” says Jaglan.
The village is also close to finishing work on Lado Sarovar, an open public space with a pond where people can do boat riding and enjoy nature. A variety of trees will be planted in this space and information regarding the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan will be displayed prominently.
When it comes to holistic development of the village, Jaglan has not forgotten the children. He took possession of encroached lands and created play areas for the kids. These parks have various rides and engagement activities so that the village kids do not miss out on activities that their urban counterparts get to enjoy.