Who Is India's Undefeatable President, Draupadi Murmu?
India recently elected its 15th President, and we couldn't be prouder! Draupadi Murmu, a candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), secured a major win with over 63% of the votes in the Presidential Elections of 2022. She officially took the oath at the Central Hall of Parliament on July 25th, 2022, where the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana administered the oath of office to her. She expressed in her first address to the nation, "This win doesn't belong to me alone; it belongs to every disadvantaged individual in society. Today we are setting an example that in this great country, the poor can not only dream but also achieve greater things."
Her win was confirmed halfway through the process when she had already crossed the 50% mark and the celebrations broke off throughout Rairangpur, a small village in Odisha where she hails from. The streets were filled with folk dances and tribals celebrating and congratulating 'Odisha's Daughter' for securing the highest constitutional position of authority in the country. She is the second woman and the first tribal to have secured this position in the history of Indian Presidents. At 64, she is the youngest elected President and the first President born in Independent India. She has scripted history and her story is one that inspires millions, to say the least.
Draupadi Murmu's Early Life
Draupadi was born on June 20th, 1958, to a tribal family in Baidaposi village in the district of Mayurbhanj, Odisha. She belongs to one of the biggest tribal groups in India, the Santhals. Being born in the tribes, the exposure to the developed world wasn't very accessible to her, as she belonged to a village in the remotest part of the state. She completed her primary and secondary education in Bhubaneswar and pursued her Bachelor's in Arts from Ramadevi College, which is now Ramadevi Women's University. Murmu was also the first daughter from her village to have attended college.
Before starting her political journey, Murmu went on to work as a junior assistant in the State Irrigation and Power Department from 1979 to 1983, and then as an honorary teacher at the Aurobindo Integral Education Centre in Rairangpura till 1997, where she taught students for free. While she was pursuing her job as a teacher, she was also engaged with different social groups and participated in public welfare projects to uplift her community for good. She belonged to a poverty-ridden community, and she found her love in empathising with people and working for the betterment of those around her. This was the motivation for her to start her journey to get into politics, which would further open more avenues for her to work for her community.
Draupadi Murmu's Political Journey
Draupadi Murmu's welfare services started receiving appreciation and attention in 1997, and the people around her encouraged her to get into politics as she was the daughter of a village council chief. With a bit of hesitation in the beginning, she agreed to stand for the Councilor Elections in 1997 and won as a Ward Councilor.
With her copious amounts of effort and highly dedicated work, she was elected as an MLA at the Vidhan Sabha elections in 2000. She served as an MLA twice and was also elected as a Cabinet Minister in Odisha from 2000 to 2004. She served in different departments—Commerce and Transport Department and Fisheries and Animal Resources Department—where she showcased her determination and strong work ethics. In 2007, she was honoured with the Neelkanth Award for the best MLA by the Legislative Assembly of Odisha for her notable work.
Murmu's diplomatic and welfare-driven work was gaining more appreciation and in 2015, she was elected as the Governor of Jharkhand. She is the first female tribal governor in the country. Her tenure as a governor lasted more than 6 years due to the pandemic.
She mentioned her political journey in her speech during the oath-taking ceremony after winning the Presidential election where she said, "I belong to tribal society. I have got the opportunity to rise from serving as a ward councilor to becoming the President of India. This is the greatness of India, the mother of democracy. It is a tribute to the power of our democracy that a daughter born in a poor house in a remote tribal area can reach the highest constitutional position in India."
As inspirational as Draupadi Murmu is, her life has been equally, if not more, tough. As her life as a political leader was growing, her personal life experienced hits that broke her down.
In the year 2009, her 25-year-old son unexpectedly passed away. Murmu struggled to handle the grief that came with losing her son and dealt with the lows of depression for months. She realised she needed support and decided to join the Brahma Kumari Sanstha, where she received spiritual guidance and was able to recover from the loss of her son.
But life wasn't done testing her yet. Murmu's 29-year old son passed away in a car accident in 2013, following her younger brother and her mother, whom she lost within the same month. In 2014, she ended up losing her husband due to illness.
The grief that Murmu was going through was insurmountable and many thought she wouldn't survive this amount of pain, but she was very clear about one thing. She wanted to live for the loved ones she lost and for the people who loved her for what she did. She wanted to serve society, and that is what drove her to pick herself up. Her only daughter today is married and works at a bank.
What We Can Learn From Draupadi Murmu
A girl born in a poor family in a village where education was as good as unavailable, went on to complete her graduation, dedicate herself to teaching, contribute to politics, survive depression, and still managed to accomplish great things, all with the simple intention of giving. Simplicity, confidence, and fearlessness are a few of the many qualities that describe our President.
During her speech at the oath-taking ceremony, Draupadi Murmu said, "Today I feel proud to lead such a progressive India. I want all our sisters and daughters to be empowered more and more so that they continue to increase their contribution in every field of nation building. The youth of India have a big role in creating a record number of start-ups, in numerous innovations and in the adoption of digital technology in far flung areas. I want to tell the youth of our country that you are not only building your own future but also laying the foundation of the India of the future. As the President of the country, I will always extend my full cooperation to you"
Draupadi Murmu is an example of an undefeatable power. She gives strength not just to women, but the tribes that she represents and anyone who has experienced hardships in life. She is proof that no matter your current situation, everyone can turn their life around with the right intentions and the determination to do so. She aims to work for women's empowerment, better treatment for minorities, youth empowerment and many such issues. The country has high hopes for the newly elected President.
Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Bhairavi Hiremath