Braving all odds, wheelchair-bound Minati Barik has emerged victorious in the Panchayat elections, becoming the second differently-abled person ever to win the Odisha rural polls. Minati, who had turned immobile as both her legs were paralysed since her birth, was a contestant for the Ward Member post from Bajapur village in Rajkanika block of Kendrapara district. She won the polls, the result of which was declared today. Minati is only the second differently-abled person ever to win the Panchayat elections in Odisha. In 2007, Suresh Choudhury, who walked with crutches, had become the first from the differently-able section to win the polls by becoming a Sarpanch from Regada Gram Panchayat in Kalahandi district, differently-abled rights activist Sruti Mohapatra said. “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), 2007 had granted physically-challenged people the right for political participation under Article 29, which pertains to both contesting and voting in elections.
“But in our country, no seat is reserved for disabled persons in any election. The government needs to wake up reserving seats and empowering people like Minati,” she said. Brimming with confidence, the 24-year-old victorious Ward Member, said “I am very happy that people reposed trust in me and voted in my favour. A section of people were casting doubts on me but, I had pledged to prove that physical deficiency is no hindrance for serving the people,”
Minati, who campaigned on her wheelchair, said “I know the Ward Member has limited power in Gram Panchayat body. But, I believe in the adage – if there is will, there is a way. I will take up issues in the Panchayat body like drinking water problem, road condition and filling up of teachers’ post in the village school.” Panchayat elections were held for 848 Zilla Parishad seats, 6,665 Panchayat Samity seats, 6,801 Sarpanch and 92,029 Ward Member seats across Odisha with Minati being the lone physically challenged contestant.
“Minati was born with both her legs paralysed. But, as she grew up, determination overpowered her disability. She studied up to Class X. I feel proud for her victory,” Minati’s father Balaram Barik said. “Minati’s entry in the election field had added a refreshing air into to the poll firmament. She has become a living example that nothing is impossible,” former Sarpanch of Katanabania Panchayat, Dhanjaya Das said.