This Article is From Nov 19, 2014

From No Electricity to WiFi and CCTV: How One Man Transformed This Gujarat Village

The village school in Punsari has not on air-conditioned classrooms, but computers and projectors.

Punsari, Gujarat: Punsari village, barely 100 km from Ahmedabad, could be a textbook case of development. Closed-circuit cameras, water purifying plants, air-conditioned schools, Wi-Fi, biometric machines - the village has it all. And all of it was done in a matter of eight years, at a cost of a mere Rs 16 crore.

The man behind the transformation is its young sarpanch - 31-year-old Himanshu Patel. A graduate from North Gujarat University, Mr Patel had won the panchayat polls in 2006, at the age of 23.

Back then, the village didn't even have proper roads, power or water. The panchayat funds were in deficit. Mr Patel found though money come aplenty, it was the utilisation that's at fault.

Over the next eight years, together with the district administration, he stitched up funds from under various heads - the District Planning Commission, Backward Regional Grant Fund, 12th Finance Commission, and those under Self Help Group Yojnas - and began the development of the village.

The results are obvious. Recently, a team from the Central ministries of rural and urban development had come to study the "Punsari model".

But the young sarpanch is already onto his next projects - a unit producing electricity out of plastic waste and e-rickshaws for garbage collection. "The state government has already sanctioned Rs 52 lakh," he said.

Understanding the importance of education, Mr Patel has earmarked a chunk for the village school. From 300 students in 2006, the number has now doubled to over 600. The classrooms are not just air-conditioned but also have computers and projectors.

"We have managed to attract more children," said teacher Narendra Jhala.  Vidya Patel, a student of Class 7, thinks learning is fun. "The audio visual presentations make it easier to remember our lessons," she said.

Interestingly, Mr Patel has not asked for a penny from the MLA fund, and over the last eight years, the village has just got Rs 1 lakh from the MP fund.

"We didn't feel the need, since there is enough from various budgetary grants of the state and Centre. If you utilise it properly, you can work wonders,'' said Mr Patel.

"The village has demonstrated how understanding various schemes available and leveraging them properly can bring about a qualitative change," said Himmatnagar collector Banchha Nidhi Pani.