ONE VILLAGE. 60 MILLIONAIRES. THE MIRACLE OF HIWARE BAZAR
Reports on a village in Maharashtra that witnessed an exodus aer a severe drought in 1972, but did an amazing turnaround
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-