DECCAN HERALD Sunday, September 24, 2000

Perfect model of community initiative

In Raj Samadhiyala village, Rajkot, Gujarat, there is no dearth of water,
every child goes to school, and has its very own code of conduct - Raj Samadhiyala Penal Code.
Villagers pay fines for violating the rules of this code - anything from Re 1 for throwing
garbage on the street fto Rs 500 for going to the police to settle disputes, writes Tarun Bose

HARDEV Sinh Balwant Sinh Jadeja 49, post-graduate in English was selected to the post of Assistant Commandant in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in 1978. He had a choice of two alternatives. To become a sarpanch of 1700 inhabitants of Raj Samadhiyala village in Rajkot district or, to join the CRPF. He opted to act locally. Ever since Jadeja became village head, the village has been totally transformed. Shop owners do not have to sit at their stores all day to collect money for goods sold. Every child goes to school and no one abstains from voting in elections. There was no dearth of water even when neighbouring areas reeled under the new millenniums first drought. The village adopted water harvesting measures in 1978 and its average income from the sale of agricultural produce shot up significantly from Rs. 1 crore 2 lakh 60 thousands to Rs 4 crore 48 lakh 80 thousand per annum. It was Rs 2.5 crore more than the combined income of two neighbouring villages, despite a meagre rainfall of 100 mm. The villages main water harvesting system initiative has been in the form of 10 dykes constructed along the areas drainage pattern to tap the monsoon run-off and then channelise it for irrigation.

In the past 22 years, 45 check dams have been constructed for which a total fund of Rs 2.5 crore have come from the government because we fought for them, while the labour is free,explains Jadeja. The forest cover has increased from 1600 trees in 1978 to 50,000 trees in May 2000; since trees help in conserving groundwater, the water table has risen, ensuring enough water to recharge 280 wells and 35 bores. The village does not require any water supplied by government tankers.

In 1978 Jadeja had five percolation tanks constructed with the help of the villagers at a cost of Rs 14 lakhs. In 1985-1986 and, 1986-1987 due to scarcity of water, 8 percolation tanks were built. Of the 13 percolation tanks, there were 6 inches of water seepage in the earthen dams. Then Jadeja assisted by an eleven-member Gram Vikas Parishad(Village Development Council) decided to construct a series of check dams under NREP, RLEGP and EAS schemes. In 1995 loose boulders and excavation of lineaments (dykes) were undertaken. In 1998, to identify fissures in the land, satellite image analysis had to be done and Jadeja approached the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Data from satellites helped identify suitable sites for the construction of dykes. Where sites were identified through excavation, the area was desilted. The use of hydraulic pressure served to increase the potentiality of water percolation. The water flowing in 4 gets stored at a depth of 50 feet. Storage of water is effected in two cycles. As a result, in the first 4 months there is ample surface water and in the remaining 5-6 months there is sufficient underground water. In the span of 9-10 months, 85 wells in the village overflowed with water and 25 wells of neighbouring village Aniyala were recharged, brimming with water. In order to charge the wells, the village council assisted Sarpanch Jadeja in constructing 17 check dams in Aniyala and 15 in village Kasturba Dhantrambha.

Modelled on Mahatma Gandhis principles of self-reliance, the lofty ideals are enforced here with iron hand. Jadeja, who sees himself as a benevolent dictator implements Raj Samadhiyala Penal Codewith an iron hand. Failure to comply with the village councils own set of laws attracts monetary penalty For plucking a leaf from a shrub or try a fine of Rs 11 is levied; if a tree is felled, then all the leaves of the felled tree are counted and the accused has to pay a hefty fine amounting to Rs 11 for each leaf. For throwing garbage in the street - Re 1. For consumption of alcohol or intoxicants - Rs 15. For using foul or abusive language in the village, the fine is Rs 51.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products are available in the grocery shops in the village, but it is not for sale to minors. The youth are not permitted to smoke or chew tobacco. If a shopkeeper is found selling gutkato the minors he/she has to pay a fine of Rs 51. Says Bimalbhai, a villager, In the village, you would be surprised to see the youngest addict is over 35-years old. We cant force people to quit their addiction, it is their will. But we are committed to not letting any youngster becoming an addict.Decisions are taken after hearing the third person acting as a witness. The third person is fined Rs 25 if he/she intentionally tries to be tight-lipped or does not co-operate. For refusing to cast vote during parliamentary, assembly or other elections the fine is Rs 51. A villager going to the police or court to settle disputes is fined Rs 500.

Villagers do not go to the police to lodge complaints if a crime is committed. It is the village councilsresponsibility to solve a case, if there is any. Only one case of burglary was reported in the village in the past 20 years. The 11-member village council could not solve it within 24 hours. So, according to the rules it framed for itself, it paid the complainant, a shopkeeper, Rs 76,000 as damages. The culprit was later caught in Jamnagar a year later.

In 1978, when the Raj Samadhiyala Penal Code was proclaimed, the village development council collected a fine amounting to Rs 30,000. Since 1990, the village council did not get a single paisa as fine. The police have not come to the village since 1980,says Jadeja.

Women became members of the panchayat here even before the Constitution could be amended. A quota of 33 per cent was set apart for them in elected grass roots bodies. Every eligible villager has to compulsorily vote in elections, be they for the panchayat or parliament. During the Assembly or Lok Sabha polls, political parties are not allowed to enter the village. Villagers cast their votes after studying the track record of the candidates.

In the village education upto class ten is compulsory. In the school, out of the 360 students 70 per cent are girls, the rest boys. During admission, girls are given priority. Students from 19 neighbouring villages have taken admission in the school run at Raj Samadhiyala. Out of 360 students in the school 250 are in the primary classes.

Raj Samadhiyala serves as perfect model of community initiatives for grassroots development, which needs to be emulated.

Charkha Features

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