Published: 03rd October 2017
I didn't have money to buy books, says Jabna Chauhan who became the youngest sarpanch of the country at 22
No political background. No financial support. No alliances. Yet today, this former news anchor from Himachal Pradesh is India's youngest sarpanch and gets to boss around colleagues twice her age
She was a farmer's daughter in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. She did not have the money to study, so, she juggled a job and studies. Then for the sake of her sister, she later had to forsake her studies. But just when everyone thought that she was yet another in a crowd of millions, Jabna Chauhan emerged as the youngest sarpanch in the country. She had an appetite for growth and development, She went on to win the Best Pradhan Award in the Mandi district that houses more than 432 panchayats
With laurels from state governments and international acclaims, Jabna is still a young girl who believes that it only takes a thought to bring about important changes in the society. How else could a 23-year-old, who has to constantly deal with people twice her age, be authoritative? How else could this one-woman-army have convinced the men in a patriarchal society to give up alcohol in public places? Let's find out how a little girl grew up to leave her mark on society.
She had an appetite for growth and development, She went on to win the Best Pradhan Award in the Mandi district that houses more than 432 panchayats
So, how did this happen?
I never thought about entering politics. I thought I did not have the age and the wisdom to fight the elections. I wanted to study and get a government job. It was the people around me who pushed me into politics, maybe because I had made a name for myself in social work. Before this, I used to work for a media channel and would portray the problems of our region, giving my people a voice. When the elections came around, a few people urged me to contest. I had my reservations as I felt that I was really young to be a part of this, but their faith in me didn't let me bail.
How did you fight the elections?
So, there were other contenders, including four women. To keep up with the expectations of the people, I started talking to them about their problems before the elections. I made it clear that I was contesting with the intention of doing some social work. Honestly, I was reluctant to participate. It was only on the last day that I actually filed for the post.
I thought I did not have the age and the wisdom to fight the elections. I wanted to study and get a government job. It was the people around me who pushed me into politics, maybe because I had made a name for myself in social work
Jabna Chauhan, Youngest Sarpanch in the country
And how did that work out?
Within 15 days, life turned around for me. I finally gathered the courage to emerge as the sarpanch of over 2,500 people at the age of 22. The day of winning was a delight. I had no expectations of winning the elections. I was just enjoying the atmosphere, the high of the situation.
How has the roller coaster ride been so far?
One and a half years into the post, I am still the youngest. In fact, members have kids who are older than me. Yet, I have the authority. But I talk to them respectfully and they return the favour. We have worked on a lot of campaigns together and have come up with new ideas.
Aiming high: Jabna Chauhan began her career as an anchor and a reporter in a news channel
What are these new ideas?
We launched the idea of banning drinking in the public places. The biggest challenge was to include women in the cause as we couldn’t be in direct touch with everyone. So, as a by-product of the previous idea, we persuaded women to buy phones so that they could file complaints and ask queries. The next step was to ensure that no one could drink in public. Another challenge was to request the men not to offer alcohol to a goddess. I had received death threats and abuses to take down this campaign, but we did not budge. Today, there is no one creating a nuisance in public after drinking.
What are the other social evils on your hit list?
Dowry deaths, child marriages and alcohol and drugs are my main concerns. We really need to be more responsible with these menaces in society.