Bhanumati Pradhan of village Bhatapada under Brahmagiri block in Odisha’s Puri district, has become an outcaste in her own village, all because she dared to challenge the powers that be to give her back the job that was rightfully hers.
She and her family have allegedly been ostracised for seven years for going to court, defying her village’s diktat, to settle a dispute over her engagement as an anganwadi worker.
It all started in 2007, when the state government issued an advertisement for a vacant post of an anganwadi worker, offering a monthly remuneration of Rs 1000. A government panel found her suitable for the post among the shortlisted candidates. However, three months later, the government came up with revised guidelines for the post and due to the changes, another candidate, Kanchanmani Jena, was selected and issued a letter.
Pradhan challenged the government order, both at the District Collector’s office and the Orissa High Court. In 2012, the High Court ruled in her favour. However, the villagers wanted Jena to continue and refused to receive food from Pradhan, who then could not continue working.
The case is now pending before the Supreme Court after another candidate challenged the High Court order in the apex court.
Pradhan says she had no choice but to give up her post as her family would have faced social boycott. “I agreed to withdraw the case in lieu of Rs 60,000 I had spent for fighting the court case. But the villagers wanted the case to be withdrawn immediately,” she said.
“When the agreement collapsed, my in-laws were socially boycotted. Since 2013, my in-laws have not been getting any help from the villagers,” she said.
The local police is said to have gone to the village to broker peace but has abstained from giving any comments.