The recognition of Digambarpur gram panchayat as the best in the country is the result of exemplary leadership, and the determination of the people of Digambarpur to be a part of something bigger – something extraordinary.
In 2018, the award for Best Gram Panchayat (a governed area similar to a U.S. county) recognized Digambarpur, West Bengal, out of the 250,000 gram panchayats in India for its progress in improving conditions for the more than 34,000 inhabitants.
How did Digambarpur make such extraordinary progress? Part of the answer lies with its president, 55-year-old Rabindranath Bera.
As president from 2013-2017, Bera oversaw the development in Digambarpur that has brought it into the spotlight.
“It was always my dream to do something for people,” Bera shared. “My father was involved in politics and was very active in the community. He would hold unofficial meetings in our home, and I grew up listening to this public discourse. I learned from watching and listening that bringing people together was important.”
As a new president, Bera quickly realized his community faced an enormous problem – water access.
The availability of clean water throughout the year was challenged by ground water depletion. During the summer, the water level goes so low in this area that the hand pumps run dry, leaving the community without safe, clean water. During the rest of the year, the pumps were rarely even fully operational.
“When the hand pump stopped functioning, it was typically 10 to 15 days before it could be repaired,” Bera explained.
Bera noticed the people were reverting to using pond water, especially for domestic purposes such as cleaning and bathing. This was a health risk for the entire area, and there was no solution in sight. That all changed two years into Bera’s term.
“In 2015, when Water For People visited the village and approached me with a proposal for a household piped water supply system, I felt like my wish was granted!” he says.