Tucked away in the isolated Ahmednagar district of the western Indian state of Maharashtra, Hiware Bazar once was in the grip of poverty and drought. I am talking about a scenario some 30 years ago. But suddenly, during the 1990s, the fate of the village changed, and it transformed into a wealthy village with nearly 60 millionaires! And the most important factor, all of them are farmers!
Yes! you heard it right. All the credit for this rags-to-riches success goes to Popatrao Baguji Pawar (the village head), who transformed the socio-economic fabric of the village forever. Today, Janta Power sheds light on the inspirational story of Hiware Bazar.
Populated by 1,250 people, the village consists of about 60 millionaires. This village is, indeed, an awesome example of a developing nation. There are bustling markets, immaculate roads, green fields, along with some well-built houses kitted out with mod-cons that are rare in Indian villages.
What is really fascinating is that open defecation, tobacco and alcohol consumption is strictly forbidden in the village. There is also a ban on deforestation, grazing, and tube wells for irrigation in this village. The place is now thriving with each passing year, and it has attained a distinguished living standard with earnings almost double that of most rural villages in India. Sounds impressive, right?
It is important to state that the current scenario wasn’t always the same. Rolling back to 1972, the village was immensely hit by drought. Year after year the condition of the village worsened—the wells ran dry and water was scarce. This resulted in fallow lands which meant there was no source of income. What was the result of this? Depression and addiction to alcohol fuelled domestic violence, and exodus. More or less all families were following suit of these issues.
This situation also prevailed due to the minimal support or governance in the village meant the problems were further complicated. In fact, over 90 percent of the inhabitants escaped to the cities to find a new life. But we know, everything goes well if it ends well, and this is what actually happened. In the end, the youth of the village decided to appoint a young village head who could change the course of the village.
It was in 1989, Popatrao Pawar was elected as a village head (sarpanch) unanimously, and since then there’s been no looking back. Primarily, Pawar ended the menace of smoking and inebriation by shutting down all the illicit liquor stores in the village, followed by a ban on liquor and tobacco consumption. This was a great initial step indeed to stop all the violence and misconduct.
As the village is snuggled in a rain-shadow area and receives a scant amount of rainfall (less than 15 inches) every year, it became necessary to meet its water needs. Taking this into account, Pawar took out a loan and started a rainwater harvesting and watershed conservation and management program in the village. Collectively, with the help from the villagers and using state government funds, he established several water bodies, including 52 earthen bunds, 32 stone bunds, check dams, and percolation tanks to store rainwater, as well as lakhs (thousands) of trees were planted. The technique of watershed helped the villagers with irrigation and to harvest different crops. Thus their progress started!
90 wells back in 1990, this tiny village now has about 294 water wells. In a span of just a few years, the water level began to expand in the wells and other man-made structures around the village, thus farming was back in full swing and became the main source of income for the villagers. Afterward, the village rejected the use of water-intensive crops and alternatively focused more on vegetables, pulses, fruit, and flowers that needed less water.
Now, the villagers heavily focused on cattle farming which is leading to an improvement in milk production, aiming for a huge revenue. Back in the 19s, about 33 gallons of milk were produced per day compared to what standing in 20s milk which has now exponentially multiplied to around 880 gallons per day. Can you believe it? What we learned from this village is that they know how to tackle any kind of challenge thrown their way, either by Mother Nature or man-made. Slowly but steadily the village observed growth and success, resulting in reverse migration. In 1995, out of 182 families, 168 were registered below the poverty line, whereas today it’s just three.
There are some other facilities in Hiware Bazar like every home has a toilet, each house uses biogas, schools and a healthcare system have been built, electricity and water runs all across the village. Moreover, three women are on a 70-member panchayat (self-government system), and every second daughter’s marriage and education expenses are borne by the village itself – These are not something we often witness in hundreds of thousands of other villages in India. You will be amazed to know that more than 60 percent of the children in the village are now studying medicine.
The village has embraced family planning and also taken HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives, as well as several other health and hygiene initiatives which are now being carried out. Janta Power salutes Baguji Pawar’s good governance, hard work, and dedication, along with the support and participation of the villagers that led the village to attain the title of Ideal Village by the Maharashtra Government.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, honored the outstanding work done by the village head and the villagers. As a result of this feat, Popatrao Pawar has now been appointed chairman of the Model Village Programme of Maharashtra, whose MO is to create 100 similar villages. And if more villages follow suit, there will come a time when no one is below the poverty line.
So are you interested to visit Hiware Bazar and get a glimpse of what the future of villages looks like? The village boasts the Highest Per Capita Income in the country. With an overall population of 1,250. These villagers earn an average of Rs 30,000 every month. Out of its 235 families, 60 are millionaires. Facts!