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Draupadi Murmu’s Presidential Run As The First Indigenous Woman Of Odisha

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Draupadi Murmu (64) the former Jharkhand governor is one of the most promising candidates for the top constitutional post. If she gets elected she will become the first tribal woman from Odisha to run for the Presidential post in India. According to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, almost 56 candidates along with NDA’s Draupadi Murmu and opposition’s Yashwant Sinha have filed for their nominations for the Presidential Election, 2022 in India. 

Draupadi Murmu has been a tribal leader and teacher from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. She was selected as a councilor in 1997 and vice-chairperson of Rairangpur NAC. She has been an MLA twice on BJP ticket from Rairangpur. She put forward her application for the presidential post five years ago when former President Pranab Mukherjee was set to leave Rashtrapati Bhavan. She contested as an MLA on BJP’s ticket twice in 2000 and 2009 and seized a massive victory. Between 2002-2009 she has been a national executive member of BJP’s ST Morcha. In 2015 she was selected as the first woman Governor of Jharkhand. 

According to reports, despite belonging to an impoverished family background she completed and graduated from the Ramadevi Women’s College in Bhubaneswar. She started her career as a teacher and worked as an assistant professor at the Shri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research, Rairangpur. She also worked for the Government of Odisha as a Junior Assistant in the irrigation department. Her life is full of hardships and personal tragedies yet she continued working in the field with her head held high. If she gets elected she will become the second woman President after Pratibha Patil (2007-12). 

Odisha is known for having 62 indigenous tribal communities. The tribal communities are responsible for performing their essential activities around the jungle. The economy is enriched with commodities found in the jungle. However, their livelihood has changed with the development of the Indian economy. They have shifted towards a more agriculture-related livelihood. Their economic activities have shifted to farming, cattle breeding, craft, artisan skills, developing tools, and other activities. Some of the major tribes of Odisha are Bonda, Gadaba, Gond, Kondh, Oraon, Santhal, Sauora, and Paraja. 

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has created planned projects to empower the marginalized and underprivileged communities with the Special Developmental Council (SDC). He has included SDCs in several districts to empower tribal culture since 2018. However, in 2019 the efforts of SDCs quickly dissolved for not having enough funds for initiating development projects. 

Sources say that Draupadi Murmu’s Presidential selection might also be fruitful for carrying out developmental efforts for the tribal communities of Odisha. Although old tribal communities of Odisha are dependent on some basic skills such as hunting and collecting, cattle-herding, crop cultivation, and other small urban industrial works. A shift in the political dynamics can bring a massive change for initiating active developmental efforts. 

Reportedly, Odisha Skill Development Project (OSDP) is such that facilitates economic growth by incorporating industries and IT companies in order to generate employability and productivity for the younger tribal communities. The OSDP is created in such a way that it doesn’t impact the indigenous communities residing in Odisha negatively. According to a source the skill development project has provided upskilling training to at least 200,000 young individuals including women and men of the tribal community. However, the full implementation of the project is yet to execute. It is yet to be observed whether this paradigm shift in the Presidential run can benefit Odisha in its developmental efforts. 

Meanwhile, Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has urged all members of the Odisha assembly to support Draupadi Murmu in her Presidential run. He tweeted saying, “Appeal all the members of Odisha Legislative Assembly. Cutting across party line, to extend unanimous support to elect the daughter of Odisha- Sm Draupadi Murmu to the country’s highest office.” 

Reportedly, there has been a surge of change in the political dynamics all over the world where indigenous women are running for governor. Recently selected Congresswoman Debra Haaland who is the 54th United States Cabinet secretary has created history in 2021 after winning a massive victory. She is one of the first Native American women elected to run for U.S. Congress. Indigenous people who are running for Congress and initiating a change in the leadership are opting for a world of equality. Supposedly, Draupadi Murmu’s win as a Presidential candidate can commence a change in Indian politics as well.  

Tista Karmakar

Tista is a Journalist, Researcher and an avid Media Professional.

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