A village head now, he begs to differ

By Asit Srivastava, IANS
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LUCKNOW - As he sets out bedraggled from a dingy hut for his “family business” of begging, Narayan Nat finds people lined up, waiting politely for their turn not only to drop coins into his palm but also to get their civic and other problems addressed!

Apart from a beggar, Nat now has a new identity - gram pradhan or village head. The new head of the Shahbarsa village in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district - he was elected last month - had never dreamt of achieving the status he enjoys today.

“It still appears like a dream…I cannot imagine people giving me respect and talking to me in a polite manner. It’s unbelievable,” Nat, aged around 60 years, told IANS on a mobile phone arranged by someone in Badaun, some 300 km from Lucknow.

“I still don’t know to what extent I will be able to discharge the duties and the responsibilities that come with the new post. But believe me, I will make sincere efforts to help the villagers,” he said.

“After all, they (villagers) have made me achieve all this. Moreover, it was the villagers who till now helped me and my family survive by giving alms,” he added.

But Nat, who is entitled to receive a Rs.1,500 monthly honorarium fixed for village heads in the state, is in no mood to quit his “family business” of begging or take up other means for survival.

Like Nat, who is illiterate, all in his family - his wife and eight children seek alms.

“It’s (begging) our family business. From generations we are into it. I am not going to take up any other medium for survival and will continue to beg as usual. I have no complaint to the almighty for making me a beggar. In fact, I am thankful to god as I get sufficient alms and help from the villagers for survival,” said Nat.

“I have been told that I will get a fixed amount of Rs.1,500 besides other financial grants for taking up developmental schemes in the village. But I would spend my monthly honorarium also on development,” he said.

“I don’t have to worry about my survival as I know I would continue to receive alms - may be more than the usual as people will now come to me in large numbers to get their problems addressed,” he added.

How Nat reached the chair of village head is an interesting story.

Said Badaam Singh, local owner of a small eating joint: “A group of villagers made Nat apply for the post. We thought that the former village heads had not performed satisfactorily in carrying out developmental projects.”

“Though there were 11 candidates vying for the post of village head, we found none of them suitable. So we thought of making Narayan a candidate. We took the decision just as an experiment,” he added.

The group made Nat file the nomination paper for the post of Pradhan and even campaigned wholeheartedly for him.

“Narayan did not have to spend a single penny to contest the elections. We managed everything and ultimately he emerged victorious,” said Dharan Kumar, who runs a dairy.

Asked to spell out his priorities, Nat said: “To be very true, I actually don’t know about the responsibilities of a gram pradhan. I only know he has to look after the development of the village.”

“I am thankful to some of the locals who are making attempts to explain to me the work of a gram pradhan. Even some local journalists have joined them and are making me aware of my new job,” he added.

The four-phased panchayat elections were held Oct 11-25.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at asit.s@ians.in)

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