Judicious use of govt funds

Punsari village has taken several steps to extend best possible facilities to its denizens

Judicious use of govt funds

Punsari is villagers’ pride but others’ envy. This village in the land of Gandhi will not only be envy of neighbours but also of most urban centres in country. The success story reads more like a novel than a real-life achievement.

Punsari village, about 100 from the state capital of Ahmedabad, has developed and more so with the funds from the Central and state governments. Not that the two governments extended largesse to this village in northern Gujarat at the cost of others, but it was judicious and planned expenditure by the village head.

Punsari, with a population of 6,000, is not like thousands of villages with dusty roads and children and stray cattle moving around the village.

Punsari village is the first such village in the state to boast of a wi-fi and optical fibre broadband network. Hold your breath. The village has schools with CCTV cameras and air-conditioned class rooms.

And all these achieved is not through any NRI fund, a common scene in Guja­rat. These facilities have been created through the utilisation of state and Central government funds allocated for village development. No wonder the village has a hattrick of podium finish with its performance.

The village is a model example for others on fund mana­gement and developing infrastructure from time to time. The system in this village has ensured that the villagers do not have to migrate to look for alternative employment.

Himanshu Patel, the third generation of sarpanch of this village, said: “My father always wanted to see the village way ahead of others and he did whatever was the need of the day during his tenure.”

 Patel said that now it was his turn and with a youth population of around 1,600 he thought that getting a wi-fi connection as it was the most important requirement of the day. His reasoning is that the youth would always want to be updated with the latest and the best.

“Why should they feel that they are less informed being in the village than those in the city? So this connection has enabled them to not only look for employment but also remain informed as well,’’ added Patel.

The youth also use the facility to get connected to social networking sites. “So when they go to other places for higher education they should feel on par with others and not suffer from inferiority complex of not being tech-savvy,’’ said Patel.

The development is not just restricted to the connectivity, it has concentrated on the welfare schemes of villagers as well. "The village panchayat pays an annual premium of Rs 25 lakh on group insurance and every villager gets a cover of Rs one lakh and  a mediclaim policy of Rs 25,000,’’ said Patel. There have been campaigns about girls education and the importance of continued education. Also, the drop out is zero in the schools.

“Our schools have zero dropout rates and CCTV cameras in classrooms help us to keep a watch on teachers in classrooms,’’ said Patel. With this facility, the attendance of the teachers and students could be monitored. The village also has a reverse osmosis plant.

“Our reverse osmosis plant supplies 20-litre cans to houses for a nominal cost of Rs 4, so that people do not have to bother about clean drinking water. These are bare essentials for a standard life today and why should our village be behind," said the 31- year-old sarpanch.

The village panchayat had a capital of Rs 25,000 five years ago. Today, the deposits have soared to Rs 75 lakh. "The turn-around happened when we sold part of our grazing land as plotted schemes to various communities. The money is deposited in government coffers," says Patel. The village received awards from the Central and state governments recently and was declared the best village of Gujarat .

Patel said that the advantage of having the wi-fi was realised recently when three youth from the village without having to pay a penny from their pocket went on to get jobs in the Gujarat Police.

“The employment forms are available on the website of the state government. They filled up these forms, appeared for the interviews and got selected for the jobs,’’ said Patel.  He said that this was a recent achievement and the youth too have started realising the importance of being connected.

In primary schools, the activities are not restricted to classroom education. “The teachers are getting trained through video-conferencing and they, in turn, are helping children to learn through the audio and visual media,’’ said Patel.

He said that the villagers  have felt the difference and they are also open to the changes that they are seeing around them. “Every elder in the village aspires for a good life for their younger generation and that is happening in this village without any donation or help from individuals,” said Patel. 

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