Can a poverty-ridden village where alcoholism and crime are rampant turn into a showpiece of change and prosperity? Seems highly unlikely. In Hiware Bazar however, you will see such a marvel in progress.
The Village Hiware Bazar is located about 60 kilometers north-east of Pune and about 17 kilometers west of Ahmednagar city, which is the Headquarters of Ahmednagar District in Maharashtra State.
The village conjures up images of a bustling marketplace; but a few years ago, it was one of the most drought-prone villages of Maharashtra. Today, the rich and prosperous village is a shining example of how sustainable development and change can be brought about with common sense and determination.
In 1995, the monthly per capita income was around Rs 830. Now, it is Rs 30,000. The village, which has 235 families and a population of around 1250, now also boasts of 60 millionaires.
But it was not always as scenic as it is now. The village has seen a really dark phase of poverty, hunger, frustration and crimes. During the years between 1972-1989, due to frequent droughts, the village witnessed a major migration. With hardly any source of income, the people turned to local liquor preparation and selling; it had become a major source of income which gave birth to all other evil activities. Villagers were recognized as criminals. Government servants had begun considering their posting in the village a punishment. The village was also lacking basic facilities like primary education and health.
As India ushered in economic reforms, showing perceivable changes in both urban and rural areas in terms of opportunities, the youth in Hiware Bazar wondered if they were fated to remain in the shadows. There was no governance or leadership. The sarpanch (head of the village) was just a figurehead, too old to function.
However the village experienced a turnaround after 1989 when Popatrao Baguji Pawar, the only post graduate in the village contested for the post of gram panchayat sarpanch and won.
The first Pawar did was get rid of 22 illicit liquor dens; he banned consumption of liquor all together; he also put a ban on tobacco and gutkha (tobacco with betel nut). He inspired the villagers to pitch in to build dams and dig ponds to trap the little rain that came in. This new water system helped immensely as the wells soon filled.
Not wanting to take change for granted, Pawar got water audits done so that there was a close check on water availability. Water was never wasted; villagers built 52 earthen bunds, two percolation tanks, 32 stone bunds and nine check dams, all through the use of the same government funds available to any other village.
Now the village has cement houses along the well planned clean roads. The fields are lush with maze, jowar, bajra, onions and potatoes. Liquor and tobacco are banned. So is open defecation and urination. Every house has a toilet. There is a sense of discipline and order.
Watch a short video highlight the progress of Hiware Bazar:
Hiware Bazar has shown that stimulating change is in our own hands. All it requires is good leadership and political will to empower others to move towards a brighter future.
Image Source [Youtube]