Images: tehelka and hindi.indiawaterportal.org
Have you heard the name of Popatrao Pawar? Perhaps not. This 55 year old man is the sarpanch of Hiware Bazaar village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra, and he has single-handedly transformed an ordinary drought-prone village into a model village with ample water, electricity and educational opportunities as well as rapidly improving healthcare. The village thrives on the principles of Self-governance and Self-reliance.
In 1972, after Popatrao returned from the city armed with a graduate degree, he was requested by the villagers to contest the panchayati elections, as he was the most educated man they knew. He won the elections and went about making a number of improvements that brought development to the drought-ridden village.
One of his first big steps was to upgrade the existing school from 4th standard to 10 standard. This ensured easy access to education for the kids. Next, he went about with his water conservation project, banning tube wells and asking the villagers to rely only on open wells to avoid exploitation of ground water. Further, over 40000 trenches were built to act as groundwater reservoirs, and focus was shifted to ash crops that utilized less water and provided better monetary returns. Deforestation was banned. It is said that almost 10 lakh trees were planted to overcome deforestation in a little over a decade. In 1995, the Adarsh Gaon Yojna was launched and the village was chosen as one of the villages to be developed as a model village.
Hiware Bazar is probably amongst the most prosperous villages in the country. The reason for this is not a central scheme, but a Gram Sabha that is empowered to make all its local decisions. They call it a Gram Sansad – a village parliament that permanently takes responsibility of the village’s development.
With all these changes, better education and financial returns, the village slowly transformed into a prosperous, developed model village. Family planning and HIV prevention has been given importance and it is one of the few villages in the country with a sex ratio in favour of women!
(Eco-friendly practices by installing Solar Hand Pump || Image: thesongoflife.wordpress.com)
From Rags to Riches: A comparison 1995 and 2012
PER CAPITA INCOME
1995 – Rs 830 || 2012 – Rs 30,000
NUMBER OF WELLS
1995 – 90 || 2012 – 294
1995 – 168 || 2012 – 3
MILK PRODUCTION PER DAY
1995 – 150 Ltrs || 2012 – 4,000 Ltrs
(The roads in the village are amazingly clean. || Image: yahoo)
(There are good looking houses all over and villagers look glowing with happiness || Image: thesongoflife.wordpress.com)
The best part? All the good work done over the past decades has resulted in the village having 60 millionaire residents! After decades of migration, the village has now started seeing reverse migration.
People who left the village are now returning to partake in the progress of their village, all thanks to the vision and efforts of Popatrao Pawar.