62-year-old Chinta Devi belongs to the socially backward Dalit Manjhi caste and is the first ever Scheduled Caste (SC) person to become the deputy mayor of Gaya town.
Sami Ahmad | TwoCircles.net
PATNA (BIHAR) — Only two years ago, Chinta Devi was sweeping floors in Gaya Municipal Corporation (GMC). Today, she is the Deputy Mayor of the body.
A former sanitation worker, 62-year-old Chinta Devi belongs to the socially backward Dalit Manjhi caste and is the first ever Scheduled Caste (SC) person to become the deputy mayor of Gaya town. She worked as a sanitation worker at Gaya Municipal Corporation (GMC) for 40 years before retiring in 2020.
In the recent municipals elections, whose results were announced on December 30, she won by getting 50417 votes beating Divya Anand by a big margin of 15663 votes. Her victory is significant as she also beat Sunaina Devi, the daughter of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manhi, who was a contender for the post.
The post was reserved for SC female candidate this year.
Chinta Devi told TwoCircles.net that she had never imagined that she would be an office bearer in Gaya Municipal Corporation (GMC).
“People have given me so much respect that is beyond my expectation. I thank them all and hope to fulfil the promise of a clean city”, said Chinta.
A single mother, she lives with her five children in Madanpur mohalla of Gaya town. Her late husband Ramji Manjhi was a construction worker.
Her story is one of struggle and inspiration as she fought poverty single-handedly as both her parents died when she was still a child.
Chinta found work as a sanitation worker after her aunt Jamuni Devi (her mother’s younger sister) passed away. Jamuni Devi, a sanitation worker, had raised her and her siblings after both her parents died.
“It was very tough as I lost my husband also. When he was alive, I used to work alongside him after getting my morning work finished at the Corporation. I had to earn for my sisters and children,” she said.
Her two sons Bhola Manjhi and Bablu Manjhi work as sanitation workers and the youngest drives an e-rickshaw to make a living.
Even after her retirement in 2020, she had to work to support her family. “I started selling vegetables at Kedarnath market. It was the other vegetable vendors there who suggested that I should fight this election. I had no idea about it and the biggest challenge was the money required for it”, said Chinta.
Finally, with encouragement from her friends, she decided to fight the election and managed to meet the election campaign expenses through crowd-funding.
Chinta thanks leaders like Mohan Srivastava, former Deputy Mayor, and other leaders of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janta Dal (United) and Congress for making her the Mahagathbandan (Grand Alliance) candidate. She said these joint efforts enabled her to beat her nearest rival Divya Anand who had the support of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
In a town where a BJP MLA Prem Kumar has won the last seven elections, her victory is seen as significant for Mahagathbandan.
Support from Muslim community
Her victory in the deputy mayor elections was enabled by wide-ranging support not only from the people of her community but from Muslims as well. After her win, she was facilitated by the community. The community leaders hoped that the election of Chinta Devi will be beneficial for the work in minority-dominated wards which has been ignored in the past.
Chinta Devi is fondly referred to as Comrade Chinta, Advocate Masud Manzar of the Communist Party of India (CPI) told TwoCirlcles.net.
Chinta is a socially well-informed person. She was attached to the Local Bodies Employees Federation till her retirement. “Her win with such a huge margin has sent a positive message that a person with a very humble background can also win if projected properly”, Masud said.
Former GMC Commissioner Vijay Kumar also expressed his happiness over Chinta’s elevation to the deputy mayor post. “She used to work as a sanitation staff during my tenure. She was also active in any agitation for workers’ rights. I hope she would do much better than the earlier office bearers as she knows the corporation’s work very well”, Kumar said.
Chinta Devi said that she has an advantage as being a former worker at the corporation enables her to be well aware of the problems of the staff. “I will raise my voice for them,” she said, adding, “For example, I am still waiting for my post-retirement emoluments. There are many like me.”
Her other main concern will be to work for improving the water supply in Gaya town, besides ensuring people get their ration and voter cards on time.
“Kam nahin karenge to agli baar vote kaun dega (If I don’t work, who will vote for me next time?),” she noted.
Sami Ahmad is a journalist based in Patna, Bihar. He tweets at @samipkb