Chhavi Rajawat got the motivation to run for panchayat (village body) elections, leaving behind a comfortable city life, after she experienced the poor state of infrastructure in her village, Soda. “Though I was no stranger to Soda, which I had been visiting ever since I was born, standing for panchayat elections was a big step for me,” she recalls. An MBA graduate from Pune, Rajawat was working in Jaipur when she decided to take the political route to help the people of her village.

Her primary objective was to develop villages and take forward the work started by her grandfather, who had also been sarpanch of the village earlier. She observed that development activities in the village had stopped, even though funds were available. She also found that there was disconnect between the district administration and the panchayat. The immediate challenge that Rajawat faced on taking up office was depleting water sources. Among her first projects was to desilt the existing reservoir.

She shared the challenges of a young woman being a sarpanch in Rajasthan, a state rooted in patriarchy. She said that though on paper every panchayat can decide on its own developmental needs, the ground realities are quite different. She sought the help of the private sector to train village youths, who could then be mobilized to change the traditional mindset in villages. Rural children and youth also need quality education and skill development programs, she stressed, inviting professionals from the corporate world to take part in rural transformation.

Rajawat also said that there is a need for a collaborative effort between villagers, the private sector, and the government.