For most, it would be a step back. But for 30-year-old Chhavi Rajawat, leaving behind corporate glamour and city life to head back to her village Soda, 60 km from Jaipur, as its sarpanch has been a journey to her roots. She says she’s paying her debt to the village she grew up in.
A student of Rishi Valley Bangalore and Lady Shriram College, Rajawat topped up her education with a business management degree. She worked with five comapanies in various capacities before changing focus.
But today, as Chhavi heads NREGA meetings in her village dressed in jeans and T-shirt, she is fast emerging as the changing face of rural Rajasthan. “It should change. There is so much one can do,” she says.
“In fact, my business management degree is helping me take care of the village better. It is a sort of social work that runs in my blood,” says the woman who became sarpanch on February 4.
And it is a change that Chhavi attributes to her grandfather Brig Raghubir Singh. As sarpanch of Soda, years ago, he had made Chhavi’s mother drive through the village without a veil. Villagers looked surprised as the car entered but no one uttered a word.
Rajawat says she waded into politics, backed by the villagers. “There was an uprising against the sarpanch. The villagers did not want him and though I was pitched against his wife and another woman, I managed to win. The villagers see me as the daughter of the village and wanted me to contest,” she says.
Chhavi Rajawat, the corporate girl-turned-sarpanch from Rajasthan, says she’s used to rural life. “I am used to it. I grew up playing with kids of farmers. Besides, my parental house is in Soda, so I spend time there and don’t miss anything. I am pretty comfortable,” she says. Besides being sarpanch, she also tends to a hotel that the family owns in Jaipur and the numerous horses that are part of her riding school. “It’s a passion,” she explains.
She’s also trying to change mindsets. “Villagers have got used to not working and taking partial payment for NREGA. I have to change that. I go on surprise visits and give them a scolding or two if they are not working,” she says. “But my focus is on bringing safe drinking water and increasing job opportunities in the village by involving NGOs,” says Rajawat.