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Maverick sarpanch checks drought, crime rate

By T. K. Sreevalsan
Rajkot, May 18



About two decades ago, the maverick village head of Raj-Samadhiyala village in Rajkot district pledged to check two things — wastage of rainwater and surge in criminal activities. If the first vow has now fetched his villagers supply of water even when a drought prevails in the rest of Saurashtra, the second has assured them full security of life and property.

Hardevsinh Jadeja, 48, who has been sarpanch of Raj-Samadhiyala village for 22 years has 45 water resource management structures, which have helped its people avert drought.

But what adds cheer to the success story of the 2800-acre land is the existence of penal code the administration has implemented on its own to check crime. “During my childhood, robbery used to be very common in our village. Once I got out of college, the villagers asked me to become the sarpanch of Raj-Samadhiyala. That was in 1978,” recalls Jadeja, a post-graduate in English literature.

Having barely crossed 24 years of age then, youthful vigour prompted him to organise a 151-member bandwagon against criminals who ruled the roost. The team spared sleep for several nights. And the result started showing: there was a considerable drop in the crime rate.

Inspired by the fallout, Jadeja decided that an 11-member village development committee be formed apart from the “government-dependent” gram panchayat. Thus began the formulation of an unconventional and effective set of plans christened the “Raj-Samadhiyala Penal Code.”

The clauses under the code range from publicly abusing those involved in eve-teasing to slapping fine on adults who refrain from exercising franchise in the state assembly or parliament elections, not to speak of those caught drinking or gambling.

“On the poll eve, no politician would be permitted to enter my village and give speeches. We (committee) will inform the villagers about the profile of leading candidates. It is up to them to whom to vote for, but definitely they should do that, else pay a Rs 51 fine,” he points out to journalists taken out on a week-long “paani yatra” by the New Delhi-based research group, Centre for Science and Environment.

Jadeja would not mind his villagers being prompted to vote for an independent “provided the candidate has good prospects of winning.” The sarpanch claims that not a single crime has been reported before the committee since the first five years, a fact to which several villagers also agree.

“At the most some quarrels happen between families but those showering abuses are always strictly dealt with. Our court has of late become ‘mobile’ with invitations being received from neighbouring villages,” he adds.

Nonetheless, the sarpanch is particular that no villager should file any fir with the local police, but with the development committee only. ‘’even otherwise cops seldom enter my area of jurisdiction,’’ he adds.

Jadeja narrates an amusing instance where the penal code included a clause charging Rs 501 for the “possessed” persons who would resort to self-inflicting acts. “The day the fine was imposed no devi was learnt entering anybody’s spirits,” he quips.

His village, with a population of 1,700 has only 50 below poverty line people.

“They are just on the records. To enable them the gram panchayat draws some government grant,” he says with a smirk.

On the agricultural front, Jadeja employs the traditional wisdom of building bunds to retain the soil moisture, but has appended that with an innovation of using “fractured rocks,” this is the technique of erecting dykes near brittle boulders with fractures so that water seeps through them and get accumulated underground for long.

This has led to installation of bore-wells in several hitherto-uncultivated plots, where guava and mango grow now with water drawn from bore-wells. The number of trees in the village has grown up to over 50,000 from what used to be 1,000 when Jadeja took over as the sarpanch. “I plan to raise their number to 1 lakh by 2002,” he adds.

Jadeja, who has a wife and two children, does not meet anybody on Sundays, which he dedicates for playing cricket with the local boys. “I am an opening batsman and right-arm spinner.” On whether he has any role-model, Jadeja pauses for a while and discreetly confides: “Yes, Adolf Hitler. But any such emulation is restricted only to love for one’s own people.”(UNI)

 
 
 
 

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