Sustainable development is his shtick www.thehindu.com

Sustainable development is his shtick

During his two earlier tenures as village panchayat president, 60-year-old Rangaswamy Elango made Kuthambakkam Panchayat in Tiruvallur district arrack-free and the first village to benefit from the Samathuvapuram housing scheme and the Namakku Naame scheme.

After a 13-year break, the chemical engineering graduate will contest the 2019 rural local body elections, armed with a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Tracker scheme for every family in his village.

Sitting inside the Panchayat Academy in the verdant Kuthambakkam village Mr. Elango recalls the development work he had done as president for two consecutive terms between 1996 and 2006. “In 1996, the village was in the grip of illicit arrack and communal tensions. I eradicated both. I also started the Samathuvapuram housing model. The scheme was then adopted by the State government, and my village became the first Samathuvapuram. It put an end to the caste divide here,” he explains. He started roping in villagers to carry out development work like deepening waterbodies. “Through this, the villagers understood the meaning of participatory democracy,” he says.

Under Mr. Elango, the village became a model for transparency, sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment and water management. In 2003, he started the Network of Demonstrating Village Leaders and the Panchayat Academy. After his tenure ended in 2006, another candidate stood in the election and won. In the subsequent election, he could not stand due to poor health. “This year, I decided to contest the polls as I wanted to set an example and motivate youngsters to take the village forward,” he says.

His main agenda is to make every family in his panchayat attain the 17 SDGs, ranging from ‘no poverty’ and ‘zero hunger’ to ‘climate action’ and ‘reduced inequality’. To make every family achieve the goals, he will provide a calendar with worksheets for these goals to the 1,700 families in his village. “We will be monitoring and coordinating this so that the goals are achieved in one or two years’ time, making the village a beacon for SDGs,” he says.

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