This situation continued till 1991. The transformation came about when Popatrao Pawar was elected as the village Sarpanch. Holder of a Master’s Degree in Commerce and a former competitive sportsperson, he began studying and implementing various government schemes for village selfdevelopment. Under his guidance the villagers decided to proactively reorganize themselves. The Yeshwant Krishi Gram Panlot Sanstha was formed and began chalking out a plan that would increase the water table in the village. The forest around the village was divided into four watershed zones. The villagers decided to construct various types of bunds and trenches, along with planting trees and constructing storage and percolation tanks. A number of check-dams were built in order to prevent loss of water by run-off.
Various government schemes and voluntary agencies supported this integrated approach under their own watershed development programmes. In 1993-4, an afforestation programme was started with the help of forest department on 400 ha of land, which involved contouring of the hills to reduce loss of topsoil and better water retention. Afforestation was also taken up on private lands. Nearly 10.5 lakh trees have been planted in the past decades. The villagers set up following rules and regulations for themselves and for the management of the area:
• Certain areas were demarcated as no-grazing areas and grazing was permitted only in certain patches.
• Tree felling was completely stopped.
• It was realized that borewells lead to rapid depletion of groundwater and unequal distribution of water. This led to a decision prohibiting digging bore wells for the purpose of irrigation.
• Water-intensive crops such as sugarcane and banana were also prohibited, unless irrigated by drip or sprinkler system.
• Selling of land to outside landlords or to industrialists was banned.
• The gram sabha also decided to ban hunting in the forest.
The village adopted the Adarsh Gaon Yojana (AGY) (Ideal Village Scheme).
Under the AGY the village under the leadership of Popatrao Pawar focused on restoring the natural environment around the village, mainly by addressing the problem of soil and water conservation. Due to heavy deforestation, the meagre rainfall received by the area was all lost in surface run-off. The first steps were to help this water percolate into the earth, so that wells could be recharged and vegetation could grow again.
Most of this was made possible because of the discipline that the villages agreed to impose upon themselves and adhere to. In addition to the rules mentioned above, the village decided to follow five thumb rules to ensure overall development:
1. No intake of liquor and other addictive substances (nasha bandi)
2. No free grazing in forest lands (charai bandi)
3. No tree felling (kulhad bandi)
4. No large families, i.e., the need for family planning (nas bandi)
5. Providing voluntary labour for community welfare (shramadaan). (Nearly a third of the work that has gone into rebuilding the village has been done through voluntary labour offered by the villagers!)
Since free grazing is not allowed and forests and grasslands are protected, people meet their fodder requirements mostly from their agricultural fields. Since 1994, villagers have been stallfeeding their cattle. Dairy is now a big business in the village, which is supported by fodder from the grasslands extracted in a regulated manner prescribed by the villagers. After all the water harvesting efforts, water is now in plenty; however even now it is used judiciously and equitably. Water-intensive crops are not allowed and borewells are not dug in the village.