Profiles of Excellence: How Sarpanch Popatrao Pawar Turned Around His Village

About the Initiative: Profiles of Excellence is meant to provide readers with information and stories of individuals who have succeeded in disturbing the existing status quo and creating positive change while acting within the system.
These inspirational individuals are meant to showcase to the world the variety of ways in which people are tackling social maladies and effectively dealing with problems while being conferred limited power and authority.

1. Name: Popatrao Baguji Pawar

2. Job title: Sarpanch, of Hiware Bazaar, a small town of Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra
3. Educational Qualification: Postgraduate, MSc.
4. His story: Popatrao Pawar took over as Sarpanch of Hiware Bazaar in 1989 after he ran unopposed.
When he assumed office, his town was facing frequent drought-like conditions, low agricultural yield, problems of alcohol addiction tearing families apart, a dearth of resources, as well as high migration rates to cities.
Hiware Bazaar, in 2018, stands as not only as a town that is self-sufficient in nearly every manner but also as a model for modern urban and rural governance.
5. A. Hiware Bazaar before:

  1. Prior to 1989, the village was facing several problems such as migration of the villagers to the nearby urban areas, high crime, and scarcity of water;
  2. In 1995, only a tenth of the village’s land was arable and 168 of its 182 families were below the poverty line;
  3. Grass production was at 100 tonnes in 2000; went up to 6,000 tonnes in 2004;
  4. With more grass available, milch livestock numbers have gone up from 20 in 1998 to 340 in 2003;
  5. Milk production rose from 150 litres per day in the mid-1990s to 5,000 litres now.

B.) Hiware Bazaar after:

  1. Saves 1 lakh litres of water from Bombay and 25,000 litres of water from Pune daily;
  2. Nearly mosquito free – An open challenge to reward anyone Rupees 100 for every mosquito found;
  3. 0 Below Poverty Line families (despite altering the indicators to their detriment)
  4. Complete alcohol prohibition – Shut 22 illicit alcohol retail outlets;
  5. Created the first Open Defecation Free village in 1992; (something the incumbent government is still attempting to manage)
  6. Made HIV test mandatory before marriage, thereby reducing STD rates;
  7. Altered the previous Rupees 830 per capita income to a whopping Rupees 30,000 per capita income;
  8. Reverse migration at unprecedented rates

Popatrao Pawar 1
6. How did they do it:

  1. Built over 40,000 contour trenches around the hills to conserve rainwater and recharge groundwater;
  2. Villagers took up plantation and regeneration activities;
  3. Panchayat prepared their own 5-year plans for ecological regeneration;
  4. Dramatically reduced pastoral grazing in forestland;
  5. Hiware Bazar’s strong, participatory institutional set-up has facilitated success. The gram sabha has the power to decide on a range of issues, including identifying sites for water harvesting structures, sharing water and types of crops to be cultivated. The village voluntary body is its implementing arm.

7. Personal Accolades for Popatrao Pawar: 

  1. 1st International CSR Award;
  2. Amazing Indian Award by Times Now;
  3. Vibrant Gujarat’s AgriGold Award;
  4. Executive President for Model Village Committee;
  5. Member of National Level Grameen Reform Committee;
  6. Tie-ups with Oxford, Stockholm, Tokyo, and London universities for research on water management;

8. Editor’s Note:
Hiware Bazaar portrays the importance of ‘Community governance’. While a majority of modern-day life’s problems are city-centric (poverty, unemployment, poor health, and hygiene standards etc) the solution thereto is most definitely in the village.
In Hiware Bazaar, a now 100% organic village, after the rains have subsided for the season, the community sees how much it has rained and makes an estimation of how much water has percolated; thereafter the entire village plans and decides how many crops are to be sown/planted.
Therefore, an integrated approach to planning for the village is taken, so that the no part of the community ever faces a shortage of water.
This Modus Operandi, in turn, affects not only the farmers and rural community, but also indirectly affects the demands faced by cities nearby as these communities are less likely to migrate to over-crowded and harrowed cities and also generate incomparable levels of resources.
Not only does Hiware Bazaar’s example imbibe a philosophy of community planning, but it also displays tangible results that ultimately lead to a better standard of living and more sustainable ecology.
To do so does not require inordinate amount of funds that our systems do not possess, but merely channeling the existing funds to the required destinations, as has been done by Hiware Bazaar.
In the words of Mr. Pawar himself:
“If the planning happens in Delhi, and is implemented by some department or organisation, where is the community? We solved problems that the world is facing now, over 25 years ago because we involved the community”.
What’s crucial to understand is that the ‘Hiware Bazaar Model’ while exemplary as can be, is not meant for duplication.
The reason for its success is because individuals like Mr. Pawar could identify the unique problems felt by his own village by completely immersing himself into the community. That, if any, should be the philosophy that is worthy of imitation.

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