KENDRAPARA: A 24-year-old girl of Bajapur village under Kantabania gram panchayat (GP) in the coastal district has become the first wheelchair-bound woman candidate to win any election in the State. Minati Barik, who depends on a wheelchair for mobility, had contested in the three-tier panchayat polls for the Ward Member’s post from Bajapur village.
In 2007, Suresh Chaudhury (28), a Person with Disabilities (PwDs), had won the elections for the post of Sarpanch from Ragadi panchayat under Karlamunda block in Kalahandi district.
Minati’s victory is an encouragement for the PwDs and will pave the way for the disabled to contest elections. She has become a symbol of political empowerment for differently-abled persons,
said Sruti Mohapatra, former chairperson of Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
After she was declared winner on Thursday, Minati said, “My victory for the post of village Ward Member indicates that things are changing for disabled persons.
A wheelchair does not obstruct me for serving people. I would like to fight for the rights of the physically challenged. At the same time, I will take up the village’s problem which elected me. My disability is not my weakness, it is my strength.”
“I have a bunch of goals for myself. One of my aims is to open a school and training centre for the disabled people in our village,” she added.
Minati was born with both her legs paralysed. But as she grew up, determination overpowered her disability. She read up to Class X. Minati is also a member of Self-Help Group (SHG). With sheer hard work in the SHG, she managed to become self-reliant by making crafts from ‘golden grass’ in the village.
Though Minati cannot move her lower body, she is not confined to her bed. She moves around energetically on her tricycle. Villagers are happy after she won the post of Ward Member, said Narahari Barik, a villager.
“Minati’s entry in the election field has added a refreshing air to the poll firmament. She has become a living example that nothing is impossible,” said former Sarpanch of Kantabania GP Dhananjay Das.
“We are proud that our daughter won the election. My wife Santilata is partially blind. I have two sons and three daughters,” Minati’s father Balaram Barik said.