From no electricity to WiFi connectivity – How Himanshu Patel single-handedly transformed Punsari into a model village
When it comes to the modern amenities of life, Punsari village in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat is not less than a city. All thanks to Himanshu Patel, the young Sarpanch of the village who has transformed the entire village into a model village within a short time.
Himanshu was born and brought up in Punsari village. After his schooling, Himanshu’s family shifted to a nearby town for his further education. It was then he realized the difference between a town and a village life.
Many families had migrated from the village since there was no electricity, no water and even there was no law and order. Himanshu researched on government schemes that could be adopted to change the situation in the village. He even voluntarily worked for the betterment of the community.
Himanshu even urged the authorities of the village to make use of the schemes. But, no one listened to him since he was quite young and was not holding any position in the village administration. Soon he realized that in order to bring changes to his village he must hold a responsible position. So in 2006, he contested in the Gram Panchayat elections of Punsari and at the age of 22, he became the youngest Sarpanch of Punsari.
The road to success was not at all easy for Himanshu. The Panchayat had no funds; instead it had a debt of Rs 1.2 Lakh. Himanshu knew that in order to improve the condition of the village, the first task for him was to gain the trust of the villagers. Since there was no fund, he made a 60-member team that included teachers, Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers and the staff at the health care centre etc.
Initially, he took care of the basic needs of the villagers. He continuously applied for the government schemes too. The result was noticeable within two years. By 2008, the village had electricity, street lights at appropriate places, a water distribution system, concrete roads and toilets were built in every houses of the village. He installed 12 speakers, through which he would announce government schemes that could help villagers. He also sends birthday wishes and even condolences on death through these speakers. His mobile is connected to these speakers so that he can stay in touch with the villagers even if he is out-of-station.
The village has a waste collecting van that gathers waste, and transfers that to a plant where renewable waste is created. The entire village is lit due to this renewable energy plant. Punsari has underground drainage system with three point outlet which get dumped in a landfill outside the village wherein all the waste get absorb into the soil. Himanshu encouraged three young boys of the village to start an RO water plant in public-private partnership model. It has also generated employment opportunities for the youths of the village. Punsari has been getting 5-litre cans of mineral water for Rs 4 since 2010.
When most of our Indian cities are not WiFi enabled, villagers of Punsari get 30 Mbps data. For this, they have to register themselves at the panchayat for Rs 50 per month. The classrooms and all the government offices of the village have CCTV cameras.
Most of the villagers are in the dairy business. Earlier, women had to walk around 2 km every day to deliver their milk to milk banks twice a day. The Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was very high as even pregnant ladies had to do this. To resolve this issue, he started village’s own transport system. Villagers can now go anywhere in the village in this van by paying just Rs 2. Not only this, the village is 100% vaccinated after 2008. For which the MMR and IMR have gone down to zero. There are no malnourished children in the village. All the deliveries are done by qualified doctors in the hospital and not at home. There is 0% migration from the village; instead, more than 10 families have relocated to the village.
There were 328 BPL (below poverty line) families in the village. They had neither house nor land. I could uplift them to APL (above poverty line). I think as a Sarpanch that was my biggest achievement and my happiest memory, said Himanshu Patel.
Himanshu has completed 10-years as the Sarpanch of the village. He has trained 100 youngsters who have contested in the panchayat elections and now, all of them are the Sarpanch of different villages. Under his guidance more than 1000 youngsters from across 16 states are being trained to make them ready for panchayat election as well as to turn their villages into a model village. Himanshu Patel wants Punsari to become the world’s best village, and it is not too far when his dream to see his village in the world’s stage will be realized.