Ganderbal: The sleepy foothill village of Waliwar in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ganderbal district started buzzing with activity on Sunday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Zaitoona Begum, the village sarpanch, in his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme.
Zaitoona Begum (51) was praised by Modi for leading a Covid-19 prevention campaign in the remote Waliwar village in Lar tehsil of Ganderbal district.
Her efforts to distribute free face masks and sanitisers and to lead an awareness campaign among the villagers found special mention in Sunday’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’.
Soon after, the villagers rushed to greet their sarpanch whose face wore a glow as she was told about the Prime Minister specially mentioning her good work.
Speaking to IANS, Zaitoona Begum said, “My demands are simple and achievable. I demand ST status for the Pahari speaking people of J&K to which we and my fellow villagers belong.
“The drinking water pipes were laid in our village 10 to 15 years back and this drinking water supply scheme is defunct now. We have to fetch water from far away mountain springs and store them for our daily use.
“A new water supply scheme must be sanctioned for my village. We have a girls’ high school in the village which needs to be upgraded to the higher secondary level. The approach road to the village is in shambles and this needs a makeover now.”
Given the confidence with which she spoke, it was clear that she knew all her genuine demands would be fulfilled and Waliwar would soon become a model village in the district.
Zaitoona Begum has four children, two daughters and two sons.
“My eldest daughter was married a few months back. She could not get education beyond Class X. I don’t want that to happen to any other daughter of our village and I am confident the Prime Minister would personally take interest in the overall development of education, healthcare etc. of this village,” she said.
Zaitoona Begum has also thanked the Prime Minister for giving free ration to the poor people during the pandemic. She expressed satisfaction that after the mention of her work by none less than the Prime Minister of the country, she would redouble her efforts for the development of her village.
She has also thanked the district administration for supporting her cause for the welfare of her village.
Zaitoona Begum is the sarpanch of ‘C Halqa’ in Waliwar village. Her husband Syed Yasin Shah is also an elected panch of the same panchayat headed by his wife.