When it comes to achieving goals in life, what do those goals mostly revolve around? To be able to have a better lifestyle and lead a satisfying life, right? We can see umpteen number of people around us who shift to a better city, a better state or even a better country that will provide them opportunities to fulfill their dreams. And this is something that’s been there for ages and even generations. We possibly must’ve even known that our parents left the village after they were born in and shifted to cities so that they could provide us with a better life. So, in a world where all that we think and care about is quality life and have the most number of pleasant times in life, we have some rare jewels like Ritu Jaiswal who do quite the opposite — she chose to leave behind her comfortable, urban life and dedicate her time and effort towards developing a village in Bihar.
It was in 2014 when Ritu Jaiswal first visited Narkatia village in Sitamarhi district of Bihar. This village was her husband’s ancestral hometown, and only after 15 years of marriage, she got a chance to visit this place. And, this visit changed the direction of her life forever. Fours years later, at 41, Ritu not just lives in the same village, but has also been elected as the Mukhiya of the Singhwahini Gram Panchayat that administers Narkatia.
How It All Started
Ritu lived a happy and comfortable life, and where she is now, was never part of her plan. Never once in her dreams she’d thought of serving a village that lay a 1,000 kilometer away from Delhi. However, during her first visit to the village, she was immensely moved by the condition of the people there.
She recalls how she was offered a yellowish glass of water which she refused to drink. When she requested for some clean water, she realized that the glass of yellow water was what everybody else drank there — it was the cleanest they could have ever drunk. On that day, she decided that she had to do something to better the living conditions of the people in this village and provide them the basic necessities of life.
Her Life Before She Became The Mukhiya
Ritu married her husband, Arun Kumar, in 1996. She moved to Delhi with him. She is a mother of two; her son Aryan is in class 12 and daughter Avani is in class 9. Both her kids study in a boarding school in Bengaluru. She used to live in one of the posh localities of Delhi, Khel Gaon. She was born into a business family in Bihar. She studied in a convent school and finished her graduation with a major in Economics.
During her college days, Ritu was known for her leadership skills and rebellious traits. Back then, she formed an all-girls team and actively involved them in helping the unprivileged parts of society. She laughs as she recalls how she used to distribute her mother’s sarees among the poor ladies without her permission.
When she decided to leave Delhi and shift to the village to devote more time to what she had decided to do for the villagers, her husband stood as a pillar of support throughout.
How She Changed The Face Of The Village
Ritu says that, when she decided on developing the village, she knew nothing about it. She felt as though she had jumped into an ocean without knowing how to swim in it. Her main agenda was to equip the village with safe drinking water and make the village open-defecation free.
She started her work by sowing the seed of education in the village. She soon found out that a native girl from Singhwahini village had finished her BEd and was practicing in Bokaro. Ritu offered her a higher salary, paid from her own pocket and asked her to get back to her native and start teaching the children, especially the girls. The very next year, in 2015, 12 of the girls from the village passed the matriculation exams with exemplary scores.
Following this, Ritu began to conduct seminars and welfare programs in the village to address other issues like domestic violence, open defecation, organic farming, and female infanticide. She conducted several vocational training programs for the villagers, and now many of them have become entrepreneurs and well-settled businesspersons.
The Village Elections
Over time, the villagers grew very fond of Ritu and requested her to contest for their village elections. Ritu obliged and even won the elections by a 72 percent margin. Ritu made the utmost use of this position to continue developing the village she had been serving. To mitigate the problem of open defecation, with the help of the District Magistrate and support of villagers, she managed to construct two thousand toilets. Her dream came true when Singhwahini was declared as ODF (Open Defecation Free) in October 2016.
Becoming the Mukhiya, she could also tackle the inefficiency of the Public Distribution System. She managed to conduct a thorough analysis of ration cards of nearly 14,000 villagers and was able to weed out the corrupt dealers and officials.
The village now has concrete roads, government-run schools, and even the poor are provided with subsidized food grains.
All this was possible because of Ritu’s incessant efforts. While she could’ve merely felt pity and returned to her comfortable urban life after her first visit to the village, she chose to do otherwise and help better the conditions of the distorted village. She became a ray of hope to the villagers and began to live among them to accelerate the development process of the village. Her story inspired us and we hope it has inspired you too.
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