//Haleema Khatoon, a beggar woman elected village head in Bihar

Haleema Khatoon, a beggar woman elected village head in Bihar

Patna, June 24 (IANS) A beggar woman has been elected a village head, or 'mukhiya', defeating powerful candidates in panchayat or local bodies elections in Bihar.

"Haleema Khatoon, who was begging for her survival till a few days ago, is now the mukhiya of Kirora panchayat in Katihar district's Balrampur block," a district official said.

Khatoon defeated Seemiya Devi by two votes. There were 15 women candidates in the fray for mukhiya's office, which was reserved for women candidates.

"Her rivals were backed by their rich husbands having a lot of muscle power, but people chose to vote for Khatoon. This is a perfect example of democracy at the grass-root level and of women empowerment," he said.

For the first time, 50 percent seats in the panchayat elections were reserved for women.

"I was a beggar but some people advised me to contest the elections and I filed my nomination papers. People backed me and I won," a local Hindi daily Saturday quoted Khatoon as saying.

She said she was penniless and went from door to door asking for votes.

She admitted that she was not aware of the government's development schemes. "However, I will form a committee comprising villagers who are aware and can work with honesty and dedication," she said.

Meanwhile, another woman, Shanti Devi, a tea stall vendor, was elected a panchayat committee member in a village in Purnea district.

The 10-phase panchayat elections in Bihar were held in mid-June.