PUNSARI IS THE ANSWER TO INDIA’S QUESTION FOR MODERN MAKEOVERS OF VILLAGES
Words: Steffi Mac
It generally doesn’t come as a surprise if we show pictures of a certain underdeveloped village to any given Indian. We are used to it! That is our general idea of the term ‘village’ per say. They are supposed to be dirty, filthy and nowhere close to the look cities have enjoyed with their flashy malls, all under the pretext of ‘development’.
And even when one does mention development loosely before a set of people who can make it happen, the first question is who will invest and will that investment ever be enough? More so, would the person/body be ready to invest in a village? As ridiculous and painful as it may sound villages never have any bidders in our country.
But what if we were to tell you that this time, this one single time, someone did invest and changed the definition of a ‘village’ in this country forever?! Punsari, A village, barely 100kms from Ahmedabad (Himmatnagar), Gujarat, could be a text book case for management and development in top grade B schools.
From closed-circuit cameras, water-purifying plants, air conditioned schools to Wi-Fi and biometric machines (something that top colleges in the state don’t have!) -the village has it all and more! And if you begin to smirk and question how many years did this face lift take; allow us to tell you that it only took eight years and a mere Rs. 16 crore to get the job done.
“Himanshu Patel- Sarpanch : I have not replicated the model of any other village. Considering local needs and local problems, I decided to put in efforts to change the lifestyle of my people. My vision was to have the soul of a village with facilities of metro cities”
The man behind this commendable transformation is a 31 year old young sarpanch Himanshu Patel. A graduate from North Gujarat University, Mr. Patel won the panchayat polls in 2006, at the age of 23! In the span of the next eight years, Mr Patel chalked out a concrete plan to change the conditions in his village (they didn’t even have a road back then) along with the help of the district administration. The next step was to manage the funds to turn that blue print into a reality. He stitched up funds from the District Planning Commission, Backward Region Grant Fund, 12th Finance Commission, and those under Self Help group Yognas and began the development of his village.
The results are astounding, but obvious. A team from central ministries of the rural and urban development visited the village to study its ‘Development Model’. The village is now readying for a high-profile visit of the additional secretary of the Union government to study the model so that it can be replicated across 640 districts in India. After all, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have air-conditioned primary schools equipped with CCTV cameras with cooks preparing mid day meals in every village?
And while we may see this as the be all and end all of the village, the Sarpanch is already onto his next project- a unit producing electricity out of plastic waste and e-rickshaws for garbage collection.
The state government has already sanctioned `52 lakh for the same.
Major credit must be given to the village Sarpanch who understands and values the importance of education over everything else.
From 300 students attending the school in the village in 2006, it now has close to 600 students.
Apart from the air conditioners, the school also has computers and projectors. Believe it or not, but Mr. Patel hasn’t asked for a single penny from the MLA fund. In the past eight years, the village has only received `1 lakh from the MP fund.
Punsari has won the National as well as State Award for the Best Gram Panchayat in 2011.
“The village has demonstrated how understanding various schemes available and leveraging them properly can bring about a qualitative change,” said Bhavnagar collector Banchha Nidhi Pani to NDTV India.
Punsari deserves all the love, attention and motivation from every Indian and it is definitely the best village model available for the other sarpanchs to ape. It is one of those rare cases where a village hasn’t reached the heights of organized development with the help of NRIs, but has completely relied on the state and central government funds to reach where it has right now.
In a country were infrastructural development hasn’t gone down well in its cities; Punsari’s progress is nothing short of inspirational.
“I have not replicated the model of any other village. Considering local needs and local problems, I decided to put in efforts to change the lifestyle of my people. My vision was to have the soul of a village with facilities of metro cities”
Himanshu Patel- Sarpanch
A lecturer by profession and a writer by chance, Steffi is an ardent reader and a self-confessed food addict.
She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org