We, a group of 5, decided to spend the 2012 Independence Day at Ralegan Siddhi. For those who do not know about this village in Maharashtra – it is the karm-bhoomi of Anna Hazare. It is called a model village because it uses very simple yet useful techniques for sustainable development.
Our first point of visit was the National Watershed Development Training Centre. Here, people from all over India come for training on Rainwater Harvesting & Watershed Development. The training is imparted by highly qualified lecturers & experts. Here, we found a guide Nana Awari, who showed us around the village. We were also told that, Anna Hazare ji was staying in one of the rooms, but we would have to wait to catch a glimpse of him. So we decided to visit his work rather than he himself.
Nana took us to Yadavbaba Temple, where Anna Hazare stayed after retiring from army. It was from here, that Annaji started his implementation of ideas & bringing about a change in people’s mindsets. When we asked Nana, how Annaji made so many people co-operate towards the huge task, he told us that Annaji contributed his own army pension to start the development & this made people co-operate with him.
After the Yadavbaba temple, we visited a Devi temple, where Annaji had managed to completely curb the malpractice of Bali (animal sacrifice). There was a guest house, a prasadalay constructed within the temple premises (seen in the picture above). The premises were also used for conducting mass marriages every year under a more than 200-year old Banyan tree.
We saw a Mahatma Gandhi bust installed in the premises. There are programs conducted every year on 2nd October (Gandhiji’s birthday).
Our next spot of visit was the Yadavbaba school, where almost 1000 students are studying. Nana explained that the teachers are not selected only on basis of their qualifications. Every teacher who clears the interview, has to teach the students for a few days, if students & existing staff like their way of teaching, then the teachers are selected. Isn’t that nice?
Very close to the school, is a well-equipped hostel for students & a media centre. The media centre has all awards & trophies that Anna Hazare has won for his work & also lots of pictures & posters on what Annaji has propagated in the village. The above picture shows the five commandments of Annaji – Family Planning, Prevention of Intoxication, Ban on Free Grazing, Ban on Tree Felling & Voluntary Labour. Just outside the hostel, we saw dome shaped structures which are helpful during earthquakes because these are strong & about 12-16 people can stay inside at one time.
Finally, Nana took us uphill, where there is implementation of Continuous Contour Trench (CCT) for the purpose of increasing water table & also checking soil erosion.
A striking point that I noticed during the whole visit was that Nana was very passionate about everything Anna Hazare has preached & implemented. Nana told us that all students take part in tree plantations; he even showed us the plants he had planted, which are now huge trees. The village has small dams everywhere where rainwater gets stored. But Nana told us that 2012 has been the driest year for the village in terms of rainfall. All canals were completely dry which proved the sorry state of global warming.
The visit to Ralegan Siddhi was indeed a fulfilling one; though it was peculiarly hot & dry that day. Of course, the Marigold fields on our way back, were a huge dose of refreshment & an icing on the Independence Day cake!