You last heard him going for a fast-unto-death to oppose any dilution of the RTI act. But Anna Hazare is a life spent in taking up social causes. Here, we profile his work as a village-cum-social reformer.
Eighty kms from Pune, towards Ahmednagar, there is a small village that is as much a fantasy of idealism as it is the truth of human enterprise.
Forget starvation, the people here are well nourished, there are no traces of any disease, the environment is clean and wooded, all the young are at school, the farm economy is booming, there are no social divisions, women are empowered and no one wastes time or money on movies, tobacco or liquor.
Take a pause; read again and don’t ask us anything. All of that is true.
Twenty years ago only about 70 to 80 acres out of the total village land of 2,200 acres were irrigated through wells. The village was destitute : about a fifth of the families ate just once a day; half to two-thirds borrowed grain from other villages at a high cost. There was little work in the village. Men went outside to earn a pittance breaking stones; women suffered prostitution. Family after family was in debt. A major proportion of the land had been mortgaged to money-lenders. With no other source of income, people had taken to manufacturing liquor : there were 35 to 40 liquor stills. Drunkenness was common; and with it came feuds and crime, specially against women. The village had a temple around the samadhi of Yadavbaba. It had broken down. The wood from it had been used as firewood in the liquor stills!
And then entered Anna Hazare. With his provident fund of Rs. 20, 000, Anna began the revolution by firstly renovating the village temple. For, he believes that “God is everywhere, but a child is first introduced to him in the temple. It is here that he receives education on the important values and morals of life”. Soon, inspired by his selfless devotion, villagers slowly began to rally around him and began gathering there everyday to discuss their problems and matters related to the welfare of village. The rest of the impossible was a little simpler.
Watershed development soon followed and it brought crops, money and joy back into the village lives. Formation of grain bank ensured that no one had to borrow money for food, while uprooting of alcoholism and untouchability completely turned around life in the village. But the biggest step was building the school building and using education as a meaningful input into integrated development.
Go and see for yourself what all of the aforementioned has achieved!
Now, isn’t this wonderful?
In order to foster a sense of unity in the village, the Ralegan Siddhi family celebrates Village Birthday on 2nd October of every year. The following, worth-emulating activities take place on that day:
- The eldest male villager is honoured as father of the village.
- The eldest female villager is honoured as the mother of the village.
- New clothes are stitched for every infant born in the village during the past year, irrespective of the child’s cast or religion.
- New brides who have come to the village during the past year are welcomed with the traditional offering of coconut, as they are the daughters-in-law of the village.
- Students who have been successful in education are honoured
- Youth from the village who have achieved something special are honoured
All villagers gather in the evening during this occasion and have dinner together to celebrate the event.