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Punsari’s ‘rurban’ way of living

Punsari is not only the best village in India, but in the world, declared a visiting delegation of 14 from Nairobi as they took a tour of the village with a population of 6000.

Impressed with and in awe of the village’s unprecedented progress graph, the Kenyan delegates left with an indelible thought of powering the ‘rurban’ – rural area with urban facilities – lifestyle that Punsari has come into prominence for.

Present scenario in Punsari yields interesting facts about the trajectory of development that the local self government has adopted. With revolutionary ideas such as placing CCTV cameras in all primary schools in his village to make parents see how their wards fare at any moment of the day,
sarpanch
Himanshu Narendrabhai Patel has been credited to have done development work worth Rs 14 crore in his panchayat with the help of state and central governments. A young, dynamic and tech savvy ‘Facebooker’, Patel has made best possible use of technology to make his village a role model. Patel has received the best Gram Sabha award at the recently held third National Panchayati Raj Day in New Delhi. He received the best Gram Panchayat award in Gujarat from Chief Minister Narendra Modi in November 2011.

Punsari falls in the picturesque and agrarian district of Sabarkantha. The proud village head, Himanshu Patel, narrates the incident, as how to settle the present drinking water problem by the villagers, the panchayat has installed an RO plant at a cost of Rs 5.5 lakh in the village in 2010 to provide clean drinking water. It further employed local youth to ferry 20 litres plastic containers of water to those in need. The cost a container is Rs 4 and for chilled water is Rs 6. Apart from this, there are water coolers that the
panchayat
has installed inside pucca cement booths at the bus stop. The village body has also arranged for a water tanker available for Rs 100 during weddings etc. in the village as an affordable solution to the perpetual water crisis rising at such events.

Holding a view aimed at inclusive and associative development, 29-year-old Patel reinstates how the hard work of the panchayat has seeped in deep into the fabric of the village’s attitude towards development. Besides strenuous efforts towards education of children, empowerment of women, sanitation and security in the village, the panchayat has set up a public address system from the
sarpanch’s
own desk.

A unique communication system is in place in Punsari. Nearly 120 water-proof speakers have been installed in the entire village connected with a sound system in sarpanch’s desk as well as his mobile. In the morning and evening, bhajans, shlokas and Bapu’s slogans are played. Whenever the sarpanch has to inform the public of any important development or scheme from the state or central government, his message follows an alert tone on the speakers. If he is not in village or outside Gujarat, he can give the message to his co-villagers through his handset.  

The village has completely underground drainage system. The
panchayat
also runs a bus facility known as ‘Atal Express’, named after the former prime minister of India, which ferries women from three villages in the panchayat to bring in milk to the dairy in Punsari every morning. They are charged mere Rs 3 per head. Under the Kanya Kelavani scheme of government of Gujarat, girl students get free ride in the bus which makes 6-7 rounds per day in the panchayat.

The working women’s groups (Sakhi Mandal) have deposited Rs 32 lakh as savings, and are about to open new convenience stores and shopping centre with the money. There are over 1,000 women in about 100 Sakhi Mandals in Punsari alone, showcasing the emphasis on women’s development in the village. Furthermore, the fact that Punsari managed 100 per cent institutional delivery of newborn children is nothing short of exemplary.

There is a 65 KV sub-station that supplies power to the village. Punsari gram panchayat has adopted a method of incentivising the filing of taxes with Sintex tanks to tackle the problem of tax collection.

Patel was the first sarpanch in Gujarat state to launch the gram panchayat website in 2009. He was first elected as village head in 2006 and re-elected in 2012. A graduate from Sabarkantha district, he hails from a family of sarpanches with his father and grandfather being ones. However, he has enthused young blood in running the panchayat efficiently and taking on new heights.

In all the five primary schools in Punsari, CCTV cameras are placed to enable parents check their wards’ performance in classroom without disturbing the teachers. There are LEDs in headmaster’s cabin too.

The village was given a B+ rating during the Gunotsav 2011, an annual education campaign run by the state government. The school dropout rate is zero in Punsari. Very soon, all the government schools in the village will be centrally air conditioned. Work is in full swing on this project.

The sarpanch aims to get the entire village Wi-Fi connected by June 2012 with the villagers enjoying unlimited internet once they purchase a modem from the panchayat office. The Punsari panchayat has also ensured an accident insurance policy cover for three years by paying a premium of Rs 6.5 lakh and the scheme entails to give Rs 1 lakh to the kin of dead in accidents and Rs 25,000 to those injured.

There is 100 per cent sanitation, drainage lines, and drinking water taps in the village, addition to 100 poles of solar street lights. A proper waste collection management is in place with a tanker collecting waste every morning and evening. The gram panchayat gives free dustbins to those who come to pay their tax.

By arrangement with Neha Bhatnagar, Information Officer.
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