Women panchayat prez leverage social media to hilt for works
Illustration by Saai

Women panchayat prez leverage social media to hilt for works

Uma Manikandan, a panchayat president from Pinjivakkam village in the Kadambathur block of Tiruvallur district can be said as one of the most active panchayat presidents on Twitter in the state.

CHENNAI: Social media, i.e., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are now part and parcel of life. Either for entertainment or for networking, social media is facilitating people to establish their presence in the digital space. In the era of social media marketing, even politicians and people who are running the government machinery are using it to the hilt.

Following the lines of prominent leaders and executives, a few panchayat presidents, certainly women from remote places in the state are making the most of social media for an effective connection with the locals and for better governance.

Uma Manikandan, a panchayat president from Pinjivakkam village in the Kadambathur block of Tiruvallur district can be said as one of the most active panchayat presidents on Twitter in the state. Uma who has around 600 followers on Twitter is also active on YouTube. Speaking to DT Next, Uma recalled how she successfully implemented the COVID-19 vaccination programmes in her panchayat with the assistance of SMs.

When asked about people’s activity in the SMs, she said that though her panchayat is a bit closer to the capital of the state, many are yet to open an account on Twitter. “However, youngsters are active on Facebook and WhatsApp,” Uma noted.

Narrating her recent works on the SMs, Uma said that she had disclosed her village panchayat’s revenue and expenditure on SMs.

“Being active on SMs provides several exposures to me. Officers and NGOs used to contact me after seeing my activities on social media. As an NGO had seen me on Twitter, they approached me to conduct a menstrual hygiene day in our village panchayat and we successfully conducted that with the participation of women. Thanks to Twitter,” Uma added.

For 44-year-old Pappathi Natarajan, a second-time panchayat president of A Pandalam village panchayat in Kallakurichi district, social media has been propelling her to reach out to people and obtain feedback and vice-versa.

Speaking to DT Next, Pappathi said that she could feel the changes that SM platforms had made in her work since October 2021 as people who belong to her panchayat and settled abroad for work have also contacted her to sort out issues. “I had my first term in 2006-2011, a period where social media did not evolve much. When I returned in 2021 to the office, I started accounts on Twitter and Facebook that speeded up my connection with people and higher officials,” she told this newspaper.

According to her, she used to make announcements on Twitter and Facebook about various special camps for patta transfer, old age pension and health programmes scheduled in her village.

She also noted that using social media it is easier to contact higher officials in the government, which she could not do so easily in the earlier days.

“If I want to meet higher officials to acknowledge our grievances, we have to either travel to the district headquarters or to the Secretariat. However, addressing the officials or Ministers about some crucial issues on SMs contributes to immediate results,” said a cheerful Pappathi. She termed that social media are not just bridging the gap between the people and her but also connecting people with officials.

Yuvarani Karthikeyan (29), president of Pulvaikkarai village panchayat in Narikudi block, Virudhunagar claims that she has been using the SMs as a real-time report card for her public work.

“Even though many of our villagers are not on Twitter, I post my day-to-day activities like a report card. Even our District Collector is also encouraging us to spread the government-related schemes on social media,” she told this paper.

Yuvarani, a degree holder and a mother of a kid, also maintains a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with the local residents. “Earlier, most of the people used to make representations in person to reveal their issues. However, people are flagging their issues related to street lights and water scarcity to us on WhatsApp, and we are addressing them immediately,” she added.

She used to post a panchayat digital board on her SMs and WhatsApp groups informing about Coronavirus Vaccination camps and Senior Citizen Grievance meetings and also make awareness against alcohol and ganja use.

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