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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt

An oasis in Saurashtra

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Just two pots of water a day.

In Gujarat's Rajkot, housewives need to spend at least five hours in queue before they get even this meagre daily allowance. But just 25km away, in Rajsamdhiyala things are very, very different. So much so that it is creating news.

Rajsamdhiyala is what you would call a 'model village'. And the credit goes to its headman, Hardevsingh Jadeja.

Jadega has ensured that his village has enough drinking water to survive this ruthless summer. His efforts started in 1978 when he became the sarpanch. A postgraduate in English, he believes in rajashahi [autocracy]

"Democracy will never work in our kind of country. Without discipline no development is possible. My villagers are fined Rs 51 if they throw dirt outside their house. If anyone drinks alcohol we fine him Rs 151," he says.

"[In view of its impact on environment] we don't allow anyone to use plastic bags. Offenders are charged Rs 51. Nonsense like witch-hunting is strictly prohibited, and pickpockets are caught and punished in an open court," he adds.

What Jadega did to solve the water trouble in his village was simple. While experts in Gandhinagar, the state capital, were deliberating on how to bring in water through irrigation canals, Jadeja went ahead and started at the basic: he began harvesting rainfall.

In the next decade, when the government launched schemes to improve the level of ground water, Rajsamdhiyala built 45 check-dams. Today, the check-dam scheme is the most popular government programme. It is known as the 60-40 scheme: the government gives 60 per cent of the project money.

But to Jadeja it's an obsolete idea. He has moved on to a new technology, Dikes excavation. As we know, beneath the earth's surface there are innumerable ridges and cracks, and layers within layers. In Gujarat such cracks are called kas or oar. It is these cracks that carry the rainwater under the earth. They are huge underground canals.

Jadeja, with his shrewd approach to the problem, obtained satellite pictures of his village from the Indian Space Research Organisation. With the help of these, he made dikes on the land deep under which exists cracks. Such region absorbs water easily and would spread it to other parts.

Today, the farmland in the village is spread on a five-kilometre stretch. During rains, the dikes absorb the water. Once the water reaches the underground canals, they are carried off in different directions, increasing the level of water in wells, lakes and springs.

In Rajsamdhiyala, the dikes ran parallel to the village river. In between was a huge heavy stone. Jadeja got a special budget of Rs 300,000 from Gandhinagar to remove this obstruction. Once that was done his search for water ended.

It was a spectacular success. In the next rain, the wells in his village showed plenty of water. And so did the ones in the neighbouring villages. Now the ground water level has been recharged.

Jadega supplies 10,000 litres of water to his villagers. And it cost him just Rs 375,000.

Jadeja believes that it would be a shame if he had to beg water from the government. Having water tankers coming to his village, he says, would be an insult to his efficiency.

"It's the duty of every sarpanch to plan and procure drinking water. For the last 20 years our concern was to be self-reliant," he says. "For my people, our village is our caste, our religion and our nation. We believe in the Rajsamdhiyala Penal Code."

Jadega is not averse to a bit of luxury. "I wanted to prove that you can have a luxurious life in village too. My Maruti goes right into all our farmland. I have a Zen, a Sierra and three other vehicles. My people have tap water. Our villager's turnover from agriculture is Rs 40 million," he says.

Jadeja's European style bathroom is 400 square feet. It has all the best amenities one would ever need.

Bhanuben, a villager, is all praise for his sarpanch. "Our village is the best because the sarpanch is very fair. He even penalises his own brother. He is very strict," he says.

As for the centre of this small self-reliant world, he has this to say as you take leave: "We don't acknowledge any other authority than nature."

The Rediff Specials

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