Megasthenes, the ambassador of Seleucus I Nicator, in his work “Indika” described each Indian village as a small republic, self-governing and self-sufficient. Hiware Bazar in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra is similar to that concept. A natural leader and a former Ranji trophy player, Mr. Popatrao Pawar, transformed his village into a model. In the span of nearly 30 years, he made sure that this drought-affected and poverty-ridden village became self-reliant.
In early 90s, when the village was suffering from numerous problems including domestic violence, alcoholism and non-functioning of schools, he started his project. Now, he is uncontested Sarpanch of Hiware Bazar since from 1989. Currently, the villagers are doing well for themselves with agriculture as their first choice of profession. The first few things that Pawar took care of fast-tracked the transformation of the village.
For instance, the very first thing he did was ban the 22 outlaw liquor units along with a ban imposed on liqour consumption and that of tobacco and gutka (a chewable tobacco variant). This decision was taken with the consent of the villagers as a large number of them were trying to get off the addiction. Those who violated the ban were punished.
He dug water bodies since the whole village was affected by drought. Together with the villagers, he started watershed management to meet the needs of water. They have dug ponds and built check dams, most significantly, the Panchayat banned the use of boring to increase ground level of water. Pawar got water audits done so that there was a close check on water availability. Wasting of water has now become a crime with charges and punishments. This has resulted in the villagers building 52 earthen bunds, two percolation tanks, 32 stone bunds and nine check dams —all this has been achieved only through government funded development schemes.
Earlier, in the mid 90s the scenario was different. There were 90 open wells in the Panchayat with water levels at 80-125 feet, whereas currently, there are 294 open wells with water levels at 15-40 feet. Villages near Hiware bazar drill as deep as 200 feet to get water.
Milk production has also become highly profitable for villagers. While the production was limited to 150 litres per day in the 90s, today, it has crossed the threshold of 4,000 litres. All these entrepreneurial opportunities have helped reverse migration, with over 60 families returning with a desire to become farmers once again and to live life with dignity. Their monthly per capital income has crossed ₹30,000.
Currently, there are no families below poverty line as per government norms but according to the Panchayat there are only three families who live below the poverty line. In 1995, there were 168 BPL families in the village. Villagers take pride in keeping their home clean, and defecation or urination in public is unheard of. Now that cleanliness has overtaken the village widespread disease has become a thing of the past.
There are facts that assure that Hiware Bazar stays as a small republic along with a self-governing and self-reliant village.