India: Good government turns Maharashtra ghost town into 'village of millionaires'


Navapur, India's Maharashtra state.


Sam Panthaky

Just like you can't throw a stone in India without hitting a politician, it's pretty tough to talk to a policy wonk without getting a sermon on "governance." But here's something you don't hear that often:

Apart from delivering essential services like clean water, building decent roads and collecting the garbage, good local government can actually create wealth. And I'm not talking about a few guys weaving baskets. I'm talking about 60 millionaires in one village in Maharashtra.

Here's the dope, courtesy of Tehelka's Ramesh Menon:

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 Rs 830. Now, it is Rs 30,000. The village, which has 235 families and a population of around 1,250, now also boasts of 60 millionaires.

How did it happen? In 1989, locals convinced Popatrao Pawar, the area's only resident with a Master's degree, to run for the post of "sarpanch" or village head. He won the contest. And the village has never looked back -- following Pawar's advice to close some 22 liquor shops and instituting a rainwater harvesting program that has turned its farmland from arid deserts into fertile fields.

Water management helped them harvest multiple crops. Before 1995, there were 90 open wells with water at 80-125 feet. Today, there are 294 open wells with water at 15-40 feet. Other villages in Ahmednagar district have to drill nearly 200 feet to reach water.

And that's translated swiftly into ready cash.

In 1995, only one-tenth of land in Hiware Bazar was arable. Out of a total of 976 hectares, 150 hectares was rocky. Nature was against them as there were recurrent droughts. Now, even the stubborn land is being tamed with the rocks being removed and ploughed so that sowing can start when the rains come.

Read on here to learn about the other measures that Pawar insituted -- and how he's now set to spread the transformation to 100 more villages in Maharashtra.

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