Amulya Sanskriti – Punsari, Gujarat – Smart Village

Punsari is one of the best villages of India, with all the amenities of a city but it was not always the best. Know how the efforts of one man changed the village in the past few years. Himanshu Patel was born and brought up in Punsari village in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. However, once he was done with his schooling, the family shifted to a nearby town. It was then that the difference between town and village became clear to Himanshu, in his trips back to the village during his holidays.

In the village, there was no electricity, no water system and law and order were almost out of control. There would be at least one police case every month due to feuds in the village. By the time Himanshu completed his graduation, the situation had worsened. Many families had migrated from the village, the village Panchayat was carrying a loss of Rs 1.2 lakh, and there were 328 families below poverty line living there. Even while he was studying, Himanshu researched on government schemes that could be adopted to change the situation in the village. He would voluntarily work for the betterment of the community and urge the Sarpanch and other authorities to make use of the schemes. However, no one was willing to listen to a young boy who didn’t hold any position in the village.After finishing his graduation, he contested in the Gram Panchayat elections of Punsari in 2006 and became the youngest Sarpanch of Punsari at the age of 22.

 

The road ahead was not that easy. There were 23 different communities in the village, which today has a population of 6000. People were non-cooperative when it came to adopting a better living style. 98 per cent of the villagers were uneducated and in the agriculture or dairy farm business. The Panchayat had no funds at all. Rather, it had a debt of Rs 1.2 Lakh, and there were influential people always ready to oppose the new Sarpanch. The first step that Himanshu took to improve the village was to build trust among the villagers. He tried to understand the priorities of the villagers and what they wanted.
In the first three years of his tenure, he took care of all the basic needs of the villagers. Himanshu was very firm in that he would not seek the help of any NGO or CSR or any donations for funds. Instead, he used government schemes to fill the gap.
He started applying for schemes efficiently and adjoined new schemes too. Within two years, i.e. by 2008, the village had electricity, street lights were installed at appropriate places, a water distribution system was installed, pucca roads were developed, and a toilet was built at every house of the village.

In 2009, Himanshu installed 12 speakers across the village to communicate with the villagers. The speakers were connected to the Gram Panchayat office from where he would announce government schemes that could help villagers. He would also give birthday wishes and condolences on someone’s death from this central announcement system.
This filled in all the communication gap between the villagers and the Gram Panchayat. Himanshu has also connected his mobile to these speakers so that he can stay in touch with the villagers even if he is out-of-station. Himanshu hired a waste collecting van, which would gather waste, and transfer that to a plant where renewable waste was created. The entire village is lit due to this renewable energy plant. Sarpanch Himanshu also encouraged three young boys of the village to start an RO water plant in public-private partnership model, and Punsari has been getting 5-litre cans of mineral water for Rs 4 since 2010 thanks to this plant.

The village is also WiFi enabled. The villagers can get 30 Mbps data by registering themselves at the panchayat for Rs 50 per month. CCTV cameras were installed at various places such as classrooms and all the government offices in the village. The footage from the cameras can be viewed on mobile phones through an app. Initially when the village was made WiFi enabled, only three people came to register, but now there are 300 internet users in the village. Now the situation is such that they won’t complain if there isn’t water supply for a day, but they immediately complain if the server is down.

As most of the villagers were in the dairy business, the women were forced to walk around 2 km every day to deliver their milk to milk banks twice a day. Correspondingly, the Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was high as even pregnant ladies had to do this. This issue was resolved by starting the village’s own transport system. A mini bus now drops the women every morning and evening to the milk bank and back to their home. Villagers can go anywhere in the village in this van by paying a token amount of just Rs 2. After 2008 the village is 100% vaccinated. And the result is that the MMR and IMR have gone down to zero. There are no malnourished children in the village, and all the deliveries are done by qualified by doctors in the hospital and not at home.

Himanshu, who wants Punsari to become the world’s best village, has completed his 10-year tenure as the Sarpanch of the village recently He continues his legacy he has trained 100 youngsters, who will contest for the Panchayat elections. The only mantra that Himanshu gives to the next generation is that “Don’t migrate from villages due to lack of amenities, rather get the amenities of the cities here but keep the spirit of the village alive”. There were 328 BPL (below poverty line) families in the village. They had neither house nor land. I could uplift them to APL (above poverty line).

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Amulya Sanskriti – Barwaan Kala, Bihar – Village of Bachelors

For over 50 years, Barwan Kala in a remote corner of Bihar did not have a marriage and youth had to move out to get married. It has not witnessed any marriage ceremony. Relatives of prospective brides who managed to make it to the village retreated in haste, preferring to give their daughters in marriage elsewhere. This left as many as 121 villagers — of all ages, bachelors. Those who were lucky enough had to go down the hill, take temporary shelter in a relative’s house or in some guest house to get married. Over time, the village of over 6,000 people and 400 households earned the title of ‘village of bachelors’ with the highest number of unmarried men in any Bihar village.

For long, the village had no road, electricity, water, or mobile phone network and no primary health centre. The nearest police station is 45 km away. The women fetch water from a well nearly 1.5 km away, as all 12 hand pumps have gone dry. Except an upgraded middle school, a public distribution system shop (PDS) and some solar panels pitched randomly, the village has virtually no link with the rest of the world.

“All our requests for a road fell on deaf ears. When elections came, politicians made promises but did nothing,” said former village head Nandlal Kharwar. In 2005, Ram Chandra Singh Yadav, a young contestant, assured the villagers that he too would not get married unless he could get a road for them. The villagers voted for him en masse. Yadav not only won the Assembly poll but also got married the next year and had a daughter. Meanwhile, the number of bachelors kept increasing. “One day we thought enough is enough and decided to open up the hilly terrain ourselves and make a road”, village elder Bodha Singh Yadav said.

In January 2008, the villagers assembled with chisels, shovels, hammers, spades and other tools. While one group shoved big stone boulders aside, another hammered them into pieces to lay the road. Seven years later, in April 2015, they celebrated the construction of six km of road which reduced the circuitous route of 40 km to the block headquarters to just eight km. Tractors, Jeeps and motorcycles started plying.

But then, the Forest Department registered FIRs against seven villagers. The area where they were building the road falls into a designated wildlife sanctuary where construction or any economic activity is banned under a Supreme Court order.

Nearly two years later, on February 28, the first marriage in Barwan Kala took place and the baraat, on tractors and bikes, accompanied the “over-aged bridegroom,” 28-year-old Ajay Kumar Yadav to the bride’s place, some 100 km away in Mahartha village. The next day, the bride aged 18, came to Barwan Kala in a Bolero, negotiating the difficult terrain in which her husband and other villagers had created the road.

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Amulya Sanskriti – Shani Shingnapur – No Locks and No Doors in Village

Shani Shingnapur or Sonai is a village in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Situated in Nevasataluka in Ahmednagar district, the village is known for its popular temple of Shani, the Hindu god associated with the planet Saturn. Shingnapur is 35 km from Ahmednagar city.

The temple is believed to be a “jagrut devasthan” (lit. “alive temple”), meaning that a deity still resides in the temple icon. Villagers believe that god Shani punishes anyone attempting theft. It is believed to be in existence at least since the start of Kali yuga. Shani Shingnapur is home to nearly 4,000 people and all the houses in this village do not have doors or locks. You’ll just find the door frame. This is because of the villager’s immense and undying faith in the Hindu deity, Shani Dev.

 

The Story Behind No Door or Locks in This Village According to the legends, about 400 years ago, due to incessant rains, a slab of black stone washed up on the banks of the Panasnala River in the branches of a berry tree, and when the local shepherd prodded the stone boulder with a pointed rod, blood started dribbling from the stone. Later that night, Lord Shanaishwar (God Shani) came into the dream of the most devoted shepherd and told him that the slab of black stone was his own idol. The shepherd asked Lord Shani whether he should build a temple for him, which Lord Shani denied. Lord Shani said that this slab should be installed in the village, where he would reside. Further, he said that no roof or shelter was to be built over his idol, thus enabling him to keep an eye over the village without any hindrance, and he promised to protect the whole hamlet from any kind of danger or mishap. And, since then, the whole village got rid of all the locks and doors, leaving their money and jewelry unsecured, with a belief that Lord Shani is watching them and will keep them protected. Today, Lord Shanaishwar stands in an open yard without a roof.

In fact, the post office and shops in this village also do not have doors. In January 2011, the UCO Bank opened a ‘lockless’ branch in the village, the first of its kind in the country, taking note of the near-zero crime rate in the region. The local police were reported to be unhappy over this development and that it amounted to a breach of conditions, because the Central government of India has made it mandatory for all banks to have high security.The bank has doors,but they will always remain open. However, it was reported by the local legislator and the bank officials that adequate precautions were being taken for the safety of lockers and important documents.

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