“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

When we planned a trip to Hiware Bazaar and Ralegan Siddhi, little did we know that we would be visiting another model village too! Actually, we did not even know that something like this existed 😛

Baripada is a small tribal village on the Gujarat-Maharashtra border, with a population of about 600-700.  The messiah of this village is one ChaitRam Pawar,  who was the first post-graduate from the region.  When he once visited his doctor for a check-up, they got talking about model villages and the doctor took him on a tour of Ralegan Siddhi.  That inspired him to dedicate his life to the development of his village.  This model village is mainly based on forest conservation, with the surrounding forests boasting of about 16 varieties of trees.

In yet another example of self-reliance, the villagers themselves constructed about 400 dams at the rate of 20/month 😯 ChaitRam was telling us how it is extremely important to involve the people of a basti in any development work, so that they also feel the need to change.

Another amazing thing is the way they have increased the attendance percentage at school. The teachers, I am told, would just mark attendance and go away. They started imposing a fine of Rs.50/- for any teacher who did that, and a sum of Rs.5/- for the students. And then, everyone started coming to school! Today, they would not leave school even if they are driven away.

The residents of Baripada have their own eco-friendly ways too – they make oil from the fruits of Mahua, and remains after making oil are fermented to provide bio-gas.  This drives a turbine to generate electricity enough to run 2 bulbs in 50 houses for 1 hour.

There are about 104 families in the village and they own 345 cows/oxen, all of them being desi varieties at that.

Their main source of livelihood is farming and also making baskets and other such artsy stuff from bamboo. Every family in the village owns a piece of land, and when one of the families had none with them, every other family parted with a piece of theirs’ to help them.

Drinking has come down drastically too, and to provide sustainable livelihoods to families making alcohol, the village admin gave them exclusive rights to fish in nearby tanks, so that they can sell them to the other families and generate income.

Working in this village was ofcourse a big challenge for ChaitRam Pawar, esp. with  there being 3 tribes with entirely different cultures, lifestyles and languages too.  But today, the village boasts of enormous development with no migrations whatsoever. It is worth noticing that while they had to get potable water from 3 kms away a few years ago,  they now supply water to more than 5 other villages and mass irrigate about 200 acres.

I somehow do not have many pictures from the village, but it was showered with heartiest blessings from Mother Nature. Surrounded by hills all over and dense forests amidst them, it was a sight to behold!

Here is one pic of  the landscape!

The dense forests

And that is ChaitRam Pawar, a simple man who has treaded the forests on foot for the last 20 yrs, in order to bring about that change. How, just how, does he still think he has done nothing special?

And with that, I complete the NaBloPoMo for this time. Thanks to all of you for being with me on the journey. This has been the most difficult of the 3 that I have done, given the varying time commitments that I have wrt work. But, am glad I am done and and am surprised I dint resort to a tag or a filler post [okie, I did  write one random one :P]  A big thanks to my fellow NaBloPoMoites too, for making the journey so much fun!

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