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Women to rule 158 villages in Kutch Saturday, December 1, 2001

RAJKOT: The earthquake-ravaged border district of Kutch is poised for a dramatic change. With 2002 fast approaching, about 158 villages in 10 talukas of this far-flung and second largest district of the country would have women at the helm of affairs.

This is perhaps the first time that the border district would have such a large number of women in command as the countdown for the village panchayat elections begins. The 'sarpanchs', or village headmen, in these 158 villages would be women.

It is sheer coincidence that the Kutch women would head the village panchayats during the Women's Empowerment Year, that too in a big way.

The present president of Kutch district panchayat is a woman, Jagrutiben Shah, the daughter of former state finance minister Babubhai Meghji Shah.

The panchayat election process in 480 villages of Kutch district has already begun as part of the statewide exercise to hold panchayat polls in 10,368 villages on December 23.

The posts of 'sarpanchs' in 10 talukas of Kutch have been reserved for women. In Abdasa taluka 28 out of 81 villages will have women 'sarpanchs', while in Gandhidham two out of seven villages will have women 'sarpanchs'.

The number of villages where women would occupy the 'sarpanchs' post in other talukas of Kutch are Mandvi -- 19 out of 62; Mundra -- 6 out of 19; Anjar 11 out of 29; Bhachau -- 16 out of 50; Nakhatrana -- 25 out of 66; Bhuj -- 27 out of 85 and Lakhpat -- 9 out of 27.

The phenomenon of a woman occupying the ruler's position at the village level is not new to this border district. Several Kutch villages have women 'sarpanchs', including Jawaharnagar and Dhaneti in Bhuj.

However, it is too early to say how many of these 158 villages, ready to elect the fairer sex to the top post in the village, will have 'samras' status. A clear picture will emerge only after December 3, the last date for filing nominations.

All said and done, the border district of Kutch is set to write a new chapter in history.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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