This section is devoted to Ideas for Developing our Villages. We all have some thoughts on how our villages can be developed for the prosperity of our people in Navsari District.
Please put your pen to paper and let us share our ideas with others. Even if we are able to influence a few people in India to implement just one or two schemes, something good will come from it.
Here is a start:
Developing Gujarat and Kantha Vibhag Villages
In India the economic reforms of the nineties and the dismantling of domestic controls have started an unstoppable economic revolution. A people who normally take generations to make a small change suddenly woke up to find a world outside India where Indians can confidently take a central stage. Information Technology a completely new field where domestic controls did not exist became the trigger point. Young engineers and entrepreneurs put India on the IT world map. The confidence that this success generated made all scientists and researchers take a second look at everything they did. And lo, every sector found ways of producing goods and services that is fast becoming competitive in world markets. India is winning more and more contracts in world markets in all fields.
The young, energetic and visionary Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shree Narendra Modi outlined his five point plan for revitalising Gujarat while he was in UK for a short visit. The five areas he has selected for development are Education, Water resource, Electricity, Empowering people, and Defence. These, and a few more are indeed the solid infrastructure developments required for any country or state to economic progress. The Vibrant Gujarat Seminar received an enthusiastic welcome. Gujarat is on the move.
A world of opportunity has opened up for educated Indians and Gujaratis with marketable skills in all major Indian cities.
Does that mean the semi-literate, semi-skilled and the unskilled millions in the villages are going to miss out on the goodies? Not necessarily. He has however to change his attitude and think of himself as a businessman –an honest and hard-working one if he want to survive for any length of time- in whatever he decides to do. And now without waiting for the government to do something for him, if he joins in the second Green Revolution taking place in his domain he will be amply rewarded. This time the revolution is growing diesel oil on trees.
Scientists and researchers all over India are discovering new techniques, new processes and new products. There are so many of them that you are spoilt for choice. Take your pick and prosper.
How can Navsari District villages cash in on these developments?
For an area to progress economically it must generate a couple of marketable value added products in sufficient quantities and have confident, hard working people with a reasonable amount of business sense.
Let us look at the forty or so Kantha Vibhag villages. These villages heavily dependent on agriculture, have great potential, yet for years they have only produced a hand to mouth living. There are no permanent jobs to speak of. For lack of opportunity and guidance, those who are able and can do something have already left. Others are leaving the area in there hundreds every year.
Yet for those who are still there and even those who have not gone very far, there can be a great future in this area. Prosperity however has to be worked for. Choose a process or a product and start.
Here I want to bring to your attention a product which I think is eminently suitable for our area. That product is Straight Vegetable oil or Biodiesel – bio-fuel. Join this upcoming revolution at the start. Become prosperous and help India become prosperous.
Prof. Dr. Udipi Shrinivasa and his organisation SuTRA (Sustainable Transformation of Rural Areas) of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is demonstrating the power and simplicity of straight vegetable oils as diesel engine fuels.
In India many varieties of trees and shrubs producing pods of non-edible oil bearing seeds grow everywhere from coast to hills. Dr. Shrinivasa first encountered the ‘Honge’ tree seeds and has since listed over 20 different varieties bearing prolific crops. ‘Honge’ is Kannada name for Pongamia Pinnata or Karanjiyu in Hindi. Jatropha or Ratanjyot in Hindi is another popular variety.
‘Karanjiyu’ is a hardy tree which sends its roots to the depths of 30 feet for its water needs thus not competing with other crops. It needs little care and its evergreen leaves not eaten by cattle make wonderful manure. From year-3 it yields pods and production is a mature average of 160kg per tree per year from year-10, through to its life of 100 years. Ten trees can yield 400 litres of oil, 1200kg of fertiliser grade oil cake and 2500kg of biomass manure per year. A ‘Karanjiyu’ tree looks like a mango tree.
Dr. Shrinivasa has demonstrated over a 40 kilometer area that straight vegetable oil can deliver power to homes and farms. Without waiting for the Government, people have taken the initiative. Several villages have installed power generators run on ‘Karanjiyu’ oil to light homes and supply power to farms even in remote area.
Efforts of Dr. Shrinivasa and his team, succeeded in organising a demonstration meeting called ‘Vriksh se Diesel Tak’ among the poor in Delhi chaired by Lady Catherine Young the wife of British High Commissioner.
The statistics of Indian Biodiesel experiment is mind boggling. India’s diesel market is $7 billion a year, almost all imported. The advantages in home grown diesel are most compelling. Saving of foreign exchange and national security alone is sufficient, on top of wasteland development, jobs, environment, etc.
A few days after the meeting the German giant, Mercedes Benz in India announced it will use Straight Vegetable Oil in all its diesel models. Media finally woke up and the Central Government set up a Committee with Dr. Shrinivasa as the head to advice on the harvesting non-edible oils for use as biodiesels.
Indian railways after an experimental run is planning a full-fledged high profile run. They estimate that if they use just 5% blend they would save 150 crore rupees. Railway companies have chosen Jatropha shrubs on their land along the rail lines. Gujarat Government too has set up a 30 hectares experimental farm.
Kantha Vibhag has acres and acres of unused or semi-used land. It has thousands of acres of semi-salt land. All this is suitable for growing ‘Karanjiyu’ –the SVO biodiesel producing trees.
I hope someone from the local area will investigate this further and take the lead in popularising and implementing the idea. I also know that half the population of this area live overseas and a number of them visit every year. If a few of them take up the idea, even as fun, it will demonstrate to others the bumper returns and hence the road to long-term prosperity for the area.
For those interested to learn more log on to www.goodnewsindia.com where a number of detailed articles are available for research. This website also has a number of other profitable ideas.
Keshavlal J Patel, UK.
There are three areas for potential development in our village areas that I’d like to suggest
1. Education has always been an an enabler for us, and our peopl in the village can only develop themselves and improve by furthering their skills, I propose that we center our energies in building a technical college, this will prepare our younger folks for better jobs.
2. Planting of trees and development of modern farming methods using without using chemicals or genetically modified seeds is another area that needs development, farming and food production will always remain a stable resource for our people. Trees around or over a farm can reduce soil erosion and dust and keep the fields cool and moist. and after the growing season,
some trees drop their nitrogen-rich leaves onto the field, where they become natural fertilizer
3. Easy Access to the Internet – The Internet has been one of the biggest enablers for Modern Day India, not only as a learning tool but also as a means of communication and development, when used properly, it can bring new levels of opportunity and development to our village areas. We should secure low cost access to computers and the internet for our villages.
Bharat Vala Patel
Lenasia, Johannesburg, South Africa
Elections for a Village Surpunch
Every four years or so our villages in India go to the polls to elect a Surpunch. Elections for Surpunch are often a very serious business, keenly contested and occasionally involve verbal and physical abuses, particularly by the supporters and in some parts of India kidnappings and murders. Bribes have become a common feature. This is a comparatively small price to pay for people to have their say in the affairs of their country.
An enlightened and a matured democracy is indeed the best alternative to any other system of government that the world has tried to-date. Ever since Independence India has regularly held elections under international observation and proved to the world of its capability and earned a place in history as the largest democracy in the world. Elections involving a billion people are a vast enterprise with many pitfalls.
Elections are also a huge drain on financial and emotional reserves and from the vast experiences it has the Election Commission suggests new ways to minimise these. There is now an incentive paid to the village by the local District of around a lakh or two lakh Rupees to a village that returned an unopposed Surpanch candidate. While this may be construed as a reverse form of bribe it should be set against the immediate and long-term damage done to the friendly relationship among neighbours in a village.
Where a capable and well loved person is standing for election as a Surpanch the village will take advantage of this offer and declare him/her as an unopposed candidate. Each village thus has a new or re-elected Surpanch. A Surpanch with his committee of five is an elder (not necessarily old) of the village and is the main link with the District Council. He is assisted by a Taliti who is a District employee for the village and acts as Secretary of the Surpanch Committee. Together they help solve the various administrative problems of the villagers. These problems involve records of births and deaths, affidavits, property boundary and titles, children’s educations etc., etc. A wise Surpunch would settle such concerns without antagonising anyone.
A Surpanch, however can and should do much more than this. Together with the Gam Vikas Samiti, he or she should plan and execute the various development projects for the village and try and get as much financial and any other help that he can from the various Funds the District has set aside for the villages. A Surpanch should be well informed of such facilities. Quite often a project could be prepared with the availability of such facility as the starting point and assistance from other sources, including his overseas brethren. A well-loved Surpanch can do a lot for the village.
A Surpunch should not confine his activities to his village only. All the Surpunchs of the area must meet regularly as a group and prepare a joint development plan for the area. The general belief that our area has few resources must be challenged. It is true that for various reasons we do not have any heavy industry or a major employer. But we have land. And this can and should be turned into a highly profitable resource. Thousands of acres of land in each village have turned into wasteland due to neglect or absentee landlord. Ways must be found to put this back into cultivation. We have thousands and thousands of acres of salty and semi-salty land. It is not beyond our imagination to turn these into vast lakes for communal fish farming or some other use. A number of our villages suffer from land erosion. Flood and famine relief projects can also be planned on an area wide basis.
Then there are problems of health and hygiene, education and alcoholism, water supply and waste disposal, which are common to all our villages.
While congratulating you all on your appointment as Surpanch, I urge you to unite with your fellow Surpanchs and seriously consider joint applications for the long-term prosperity of our area along with your own village.
Keshavlal J Patel. UK.