ONE VIL­LAGE. 60 MIL­LION­AIRES. THE MIR­A­CLE OF HI­WARE BAZAR

Re­ports on a vil­lage in Ma­ha­rash­tra that wit­nessed an ex­o­dus aer a se­vere drought in 1972, but did an amaz­ing turn­around

Tehelka - - MAHARASHTRA - RAMESH MENON

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 in Ahmed­na­gar dis­trict of Ma­ha­rash­tra, how­ever, you will see such a mir­a­cle in progress.

Hi­ware Bazar 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 830. Now, it is 30,000. The vil­lage, which has 235 fam­i­lies and a pop­u­la­tion of around 1,250, now also boasts of 60 mil­lion­aires.

The ce­ment houses along well-planned, clean roads are pink­ish brown. There is a sense of dis­ci­pline and or­der. Liquor and tobacco are banned. So is open defe­ca­tion and uri­na­tion. Ev­ery house has a toi­let, a fact that few In­dian vil­lages can boast of.

The fields are lush with maize, jowar, ba­jra, onions and pota­toes. Hi­ware Bazar is an oa­sis in a drought-af­fected area.

But, it was not al­ways like this. Let us rewind to its dark past. “We lived in a poor vil­lage, but were happy with our sim­ple lives,” re­calls Raosa­heb Rauji Pawar, 85. “But af­ter the drought of 1972, the peace was shat­tered. Peo­ple be­came ir­ri­ta­ble and rest­less as the strug­gle to stay alive be­came se­vere. Petty rea­sons were enough to trig­ger- off bit­ter quar­rels, as there was so much de­spair and frus­tra­tion. Vil­lagers started con­sum­ing liquor and it added to our ruin. Many res­i­dents mi­grated to nearby cities to work as daily wage labour­ers.”

The lo­cal econ­omy col­lapsed. So did the so­cial fab­ric that held the vil­lage to­gether in spite of its back­ward­ness. Ninety per­cent of the vil­lagers mi­grated. De­spon­dency, hope­less­ness and un­ad­dressed anger punc­tu­ated the vil­lagers’ lives.

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 worth the name. Or lead­er­ship. The sarpanch was just a fig­ure­head, too old to func­tion. As the youth dis­cussed the state of af­fairs, they felt it was worth ex­per­i­ment­ing with a young sarpanch who could bring in a whiff of fresh think­ing and visionary zeal.

Popa­trao Pawar, 52, was the only post­grad­u­ate in Hi­ware Bazar. So, the youth pleaded with him to con­test for the sarpanch’s post in 1989. But Pawar was not in­ter­ested. In fact, his fam­ily to­tally dis­ap­proved of the idea; they wanted him to go to the city and get a white-col­lar job. Pawar wanted to be­come a crick­eter as he was a good player and his fam­ily also thought he had great prom­ise and would play in the Ranji Tro­phy some­day.

But as the youth per­sisted, he agreed to con­test. He was elected un­op­posed. Pawar re­alised he had got the chance of a life­time to usher in change.

Pawar be­gan by ask­ing the vil­lagers to be­come proac­tive to­wards cre­at­ing their par­a­digms for de­vel­op­ment. The vil­lage was caught in a pin­cer of al­co­holism lead-

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