Tuesday, June 28, 2011

RALEGAN SIDDHI:INSIDE ANNA HAZARE's MODEL VILLAGE

Ralegan Siddhi

is a village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra
It is located at a distance of 87 km from Pune.It is considered a model of environmental conservation . Since 1975, led by the noted social activist
Anna Hazare, the village has carried out programs like treeplanting, terracing to reduce soil erosion and digging canals to retain rainwater. For energy, the village uses solar power, biogas (some generated from the communal toilet) and a windmill.
The project began in 1975, therefore is 36 years old now. It is a sustainable model of a village republic.The village's biggest accomplishment is in non-conventional energy. For example, all the village streets are lit by solar lights. Each light has a separate solar panel.

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Watershed development

In 1975 the village was afflicted by drought, poverty prevailed, and illicit liquor trade was widespread. The village tank could not hold water as the embankment dam wall leaked. Work began with the percolation tank construction. Hazare encouraged the villagers to donate their labor to repair the embankment. Once this was fixed, the seven wells below filled with water in the summer for the first time in memory. [4] Now the village has water year round, as well as a grain bank, a milk bank, and a school. There is no longer any poverty
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This ultimately raised the water table. In the same village where earlier it was not possible to cultivate more than 300–350 acres of land for one crop, now the villagers are harvesting two crops in 1500 acres of land. Due to availability of water, the agricultural production has boosted up. The agricultural development has created lot of employment in the village itself. Not only has the distress migration completely stopped, but now wage labourers have to be hired from other villages in order to get various intercultural operations done in time.
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Model village

The World Bank Group has concluded that the village of Ralegan Siddhi was transformed from a highly degraded village ecosystem in a semi-arid region of extreme poverty to one of the richest in the country. The Ralegan Siddhi example, now 25 years old, by demonstrating that it is possible to rebuild natural capital in partnership with the local economy, is a model for the rest of the country.
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Today the villagers have completely given up brewing of liquor. Nobody sells liquor in the village. Further, the shopkeepers do not sell cigarettes, beedies and tobacco too for the last 13 years.
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Earlier only 300 liters of milk was sold from the village. Now the milk production has gone up to 4000 liters. This milk is purchased by cooperative and private dairies. This brings in Rs. 1.3 to 1.5 crores (13 to 15 million) annually to the village. The dairy business has flourished as a subsidiary to agriculture which has provided a new income generation avenue to the unemployed youths of the village.
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The per capita income of the villagers has increased from Rs. 225 to Rs. 2500. This has completely transformed the economy of the village. The living conditions of the villagers have improved and the gap between the haves and have-nots has narrowed down. After the economic transformation of the village, villagers constructed buildings worth Rs.1 crore (10 million) for school, hostel and gymkhana and renovated the old village temple through financial contributions and shramdan.
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Mass marriages are arranged in the village (generally 25 to 30 marriages at a time) in order to curb expenditure. This has helped in removing caste barriers and promoting social cohesiveness.
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After the success of watershed development programme in Ralegan Siddhi, Hazare replicated it in the neighbouring four villages. The results are encouraging. Now the same project is being replicated in 80 – 85 villages of Maharashtra. Like any other village in India including Ralegan Siddhi, there was a social problem of untouchability. Today people of all castes and creeds live together in peace like members of the same family
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In the last 35 years, many institutions and cooperatives like Gram Panchayat, Cooperative Consumer Society, Cooperative Credit Society, Cooperative Dairy, Educational Society, Women’s Organization and Youth Organization, with different mandates are operating in Ralegan Siddhi. Till date no elections were held for the selection of members of these institutions.
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Ralegan Siddhi should not be viewed from the narrow angle of materialistic development, i.e. structures in watershed or economic development. The developmental process in Ralegan Siddhi is beyond this. There is a social and nationalistic thread passing through the process of change.

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Anna Hazaare: The 21st century Mahatma Gandhi: Students touch the feet of veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare as a sign of respect as he visits one of his schools in the Ralegaon Siddhi village, June 17 2011. Clad in white home-spun garments and living in a spartan room of his village's Hindu temple, Hazare is an unlikely thorn in the side of the government hundreds of miles away in New Delhi. And yet for millions of Indians, he is a 21st-century Mahatma Gandhi, inspiring a rare wave of protests against the spiralling corruption that has tarnished the up-and-coming image of Asia's third-largest economy. 

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A portrait of Anna Hazare hangs on the wall of a restaurant in Ralegaon Siddhi village,
Ahmednagar District, June 17, 2011. Like Gandhi, who led India's independence
movement through peaceful resistance, Hazare plans to go on a hunger strike, unto
death if necessary, to press his cause. He says his fast from Aug. 16 will continue until
the government passes a tough anti-graft law that has already been decades in the
making. 

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Students attend class at a school in the Ralegaon Siddhi village, June 17, 2011. The school was founded by Anna Hazare in 1979.

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A man walks out of a computer institute in the Ralegaon Siddhi village, June 17, 2011.

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Anna Hazare walks through dining hall of a school he founded in Ralegaon Siddhi
village, June 17, 2011. Hazare carried out a successful fast in April, striking a chord with millions of Indians and forcing the government to agree to create the country's first independent ombudsman who could investigate ministers and bureaucrats.The government is so far resisting the demand to include the prime minister and judges in the ombudsman's remit.

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Students play during a recess break at a school in the village of Ralegaon Siddhi in
Ahmednagar district, June 17, 2011. Ralegaon Siddhi was once like so many Indian
villages:dogged by poverty,illiteracy, water scarcity and illegal liquor dens preying on the poor and vulnerable.

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Children play a game of kabaddi on the grounds of a school in the Ralegaon Siddhi
village

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Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare inspects a school building under-construction in the Ralegaon Siddhi village, 17 June 2011. After retiring from the army, Hazare returned home to remove the problems of poverty, illiteracy etc.from the village.Four decades later, the lush village is a model for sustainable development and government illustrating what civil society can achieve and the failure of the state

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Children pray during a morning assembly at a school in the Ralegaon Siddhi village,
located in the Ahmednagar district near Mumbai June 17, 2011

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