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The Story of Anna Hazare & Ralegan Siddhi

Anna Hazare Gandhi Vivekananda.

Those who live for themselves die, those who die for the society live. 

Anna Hazare

More than just Shri Anna Hazare, this is also a story of a small village in Maharashtra, Ralegan Siddhi.
Located in Ahmednagar district of Maharastra, this village is home to around 2500 people. It is one of the most prosperous villages in the district – both economically as well as socially. However, the journey has not been as simple as it may seem.

Ralegan Siddhi before Anna Hazare

It all began in the 1970s. The village is in a semi-arid region of Maharashtra. With an annual rainfall of 400-500mm, water was always an issue in the summer season. Agriculture was largely dependent on monsoon and farmers were not able to take more than one (sometimes two) crop per year due to poor irrigation. Out of around 2200 acres of land, only 400-500 were under irrigation. Unemployment was also an issue in the village and many people would migrate to cities like Pune, Mumbai in search of employment.

While some went outside, others tried to create employment within the village. But the only problem was, that their means were not noble. Around 35 breweries were set up in the surrounding area of the village and the place became a hub for such immoral activities.

The position of the village was grim not just economically but also on the social front. The Dalits were not treated with dignity, and it only fuelled the division between people.

The Role of Anna Hazare

In such a hopeless situation, Anna Hazare comes into the picture. In his late twenties, retired from the military, Mr. Hazare came back to his place. Coming from the military, he was highly disciplined and ethical. He was perplexed to see the situation of his village. Things had gone out of control and the future of the entire community appeared bleak. At one point of time, Mr. Hazare was so depressed by the situation that he thought of committing suicide. However, that was the time of his awakening. The thought that ‘I can save my village’, inspired him. He decided to dedicate his life to the betterment of his village and gave up the thought of suicide.

After careful observation, Mr. Hazare learned that the liquor breweries were the first evil that needed to be eradicated. A village meeting was called and after much persuasion, Gramsabha passed a resolution to stop all breweries in the village area. The resolution was implemented strictly in all the village areas. At some later point, when two youths were found indulging in liquor consumption, they were publicly beaten, with an army belt by Mr. Hazare. Today when you ask about it, he says that it was a punishment just like a mother slaps a child to cultivate good habits in him. The child may cry for a while but later remains grateful to the mother.

Banning liquor was certainly the difficult step, but not the most difficult. Water was, an even more important and pressing issue for the village. A decision was taken to construct dams, even across small rivulets. This would ensure water percolation in the ground and increase the water table. All villagers agreed to donate two workdays per family per month for the cause. And with the help of villagers, 10 dams were constructed in the first 12 months.

Very soon results started showing. The groundwater level increased and wells in the village had more water during summer. This inspired people and many more dams were constructed in later years.

Sustainable development was the motto of the reforms undertaken. It was understood that any development achieved at the cost of the environment will not be sustainable and nature will strike back in one form or another. The grazing of animals was banned from hills since it disturbs the topsoil of the land. But farmers were allowed to cut and carry grass for their cattle and goats.

Any development achieved at cost of environment will not be sustainable and nature will strike back in one form or another.

Anna Hazare

In the following years, lakhs of trees were planted in the surrounding region. With sram-dan (labour donation) by people, schools, temples and other public structures were constructed. While some donated their sram (labour) others donated land, money or equipment for such public purposes.

If you visit now, Ralegan Siddhi is a completely transformed village. 80% of village land is now irrigated and two crops are taken every year. Drinking water is no more an issue even in rain-deficit years. While previously people used to go out for employment now finding wage labourers has become difficult. The village schools are at par with city schools in terms of infrastructure and facilities. All people have even abandoned intoxicants like Bidi, Cigarette, Tobacco, Gutakha etc. and no shop in the village sells these products.

This is a story of transformation, the story of sacrifice. How the dedication of one man can change the lives of so many. Mr. Anna Hazare had many more achievements in his life after this. But it all began here, and Mr. Hazare regards this success, the transformation of the village, as the greatest achievement of them all.

By caring for bigger family person can be actually happy. A small seed of wheat buries itself, only to create many more fresh grains. There should be some sacrifice in life, that will make life complete and more fulfilling.

Anna Hazare
Posted in GS 2 Polity, Governance & IR
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