Strengthening of Local Self-Government
Central and state governments grant special entitlements to those below the poverty line. Surveys are done in regular time periods to identify and include deserving beneficiaries in the ‘Below Poverty Line’ (BPL) name list. In early 2019, the Tiruvallur Block development office issued an order to all panchayats to update the BPL list based on the current economic status of the village residents.
The then head (elected representative) of Velliyur Gram Panchayat used his influence to remove the forms and data submitted by some deserving beneficiaries and insert the names of his own relatives and friends who did not qualify as economically poor.
When the BPL list was announced, the village people were greatly disappointed to find many of their names missing and were enraged to see some of the rich listed under BPL. This was discussed in Mahila Mandals. The Mahila Mandal wrote petitions, got the signatures of all members, and raised this concern with their Gram Panchayat head. Their woes and complaints fell on deaf ears. Even after repeated requests and petitions in Grama Sabha, no action was taken in this regard.
The women of Mahila Mandals decided to escalate the matter and gathered supporters. The village residents, primarily the women of Mahila Mandals, went in two vans, tractors, a public bus, and motor bikes and assembled outside the collector’s office in Tiruvallur. Totally, about 150 people gathered and protested.
Some of the women did not participate in the protest for fear of their husbands and stayed mute. Some men even discouraged the women who wanted to take part in the protest against this injustice. But Mahila Mandal is a formidable force, and it swept away all these challenges and demanded that the deserving households be included in the BPL list. As a result of their persistent, collective efforts, the government heeded their petition.
Within a fortnight, 142 deserving people were included in the BPL list, and the rich were removed. This incident became a hallmark success story, following which more women joined the Mahila Mandal and started active participation in the Upagram Sabha and Grama Sabha, understanding the significance of their role in local self-governance.