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The making of a model village in India

Jun 11, 2009

From a village where everyone lived in poverty, Hiware Bazaar in western India today has emerged as a model of rural sustainability through people’s participation. It shows how the right kind of efforts can bring about miracles and attract people back in its fold who had left it for lack of opportunities.

Pune: Popat Borkar (25) was a child when his father, Tulshiram, migrated to Rajapur from a village called Hiware Bazaar in Maharashtra in search of work.

This was despite him being the owner of seven acres of land. “It was useless because there was no water to grow any crops. My father had no option,” Popat says.

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A year back, however, Popat returned to Hiware Bazaar with his family. It’s a different situation now. “I had begun to hear so much about the progress made here that I came here to see it out for myself. And then we all decided to return.”

The Borkars are now tilling their land. “I am now making more than Rs 1.5 lakh annually from the crops, which I harvest at least thrice a year,” Popat informs.

Similar are the stories of Babanrao Thange and Yashwant Kairat, both of whom had migrated to Mumbai several years ago in search of livelihood options.

They are now happy to be farmers once again. According to Popatrao Pawar, the sarpanch of Hiware Bazaar, at least 57 families have returned over the last decade.

Pawar, a post-graduate in Commerce and a former Kanga league cricket player in Mumbai, has been the village headman since 1989 and is credited with single-handedly inspiring villagers to use their efforts to transform Hiware Bazaar.

For the 237 families living here, their village is a role model that has attracted international attention. And they would like to keep it that way.

“Hindus and Muslims live together in complete harmony and we all work for the betterment of the village, initiating projects that can improve the healthcare and educational facilities for our next generation,” says octogenarian Shantaram Kamble.

Hiware Bazaar is an example of how the right kind of efforts can bring about miracles. What was once a perennially drought prone area is now a green zone. The village has neatly laid concrete roads, public toilets and sanitation systems.

The men have virtually no vices as liquor, cigarettes and paan kiosks are banned. Cattle-grazing and tree-felling is not allowed and no one can dare defecate in the open.

Located just about 100 kms from Pune, Hiware Bazaar is spread over 1,000 hectares and the magical transformation has taken place because of voluntary labour (shramdaan) of the residents to create a watershed and utilise the resources in a proper way. The village has annual rainfall ranging between 200 and 400 mm.

Almost all of the population was below the poverty line just two decades ago. Migration to neighbouring towns and cities was common and so were anti-social activities such as bootlegging and fights within village groups.

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Today, this village is studied by researchers and activists as a model of rural sustainability through people’s participation.

Elaborating about the dramatic transformation, Pawar says, “We started with focusing on the village school, which was only up to Class IV. Now, it teaches students up to the SSC level. The village has 72 primary and secondary teachers besides four lecturers and four doctors. What has really helped though is our focus on water conservation as scarcity of water was at the root of most problems.”

The state government’s ‘Ideal Village Scheme’, announced in 1994-95, gave a further fillip to the villagers’ efforts. An elaborate exercise was launched for continuous contour trenching (CCT), a low-cost and efficient rainwater harvesting method, covering nearly 250 hectares of hillocks surrounding the village.

Roadside plantations, cement concrete check dams, minor lakes and other watershed development programmes were implemented through voluntary donation of labour.

“Digging of borewells was banned and a water audit system was introduced for planning the crops to be undertaken for cultivation,” Pawar informs.

And though the Ahmednagar district has the highest concentration of cooperative sugar mills, the villagers consciously opted against planting water-intensive crops like sugarcane and banana.

Meanwhile, dairy farming was promoted through finance by nationalised and cooperative banks.

“The village council stands as guarantor. Our only condition is that the farmer should spend the loan only on the purpose for which he avails it,” Pawar says.

The village council has also been promoting biogas as an eco-friendly and healthy alternative. It’s no wonder then that Hiware Bazaar has bagged several awards, including the 1995 Model Village Award, the 2007 Nirmal Gram Award and the central government’s Water Award also in 2007.

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