India, having an agro-based economy, depends the most on its villages for growth. The gaon always has that distinct nostalgic charm that Indians alone can understand. Sarson ke khet , tea plantations, mud houses, clean air, charpaai , mitti , star-lit sky; these are just some of the happy things that we associate with life in an Indian village.
But unfortunately, that feeling is slowly waning. Poverty, lack of education, lack of sanitation, etc are the first associations that the media paints about Indian villages for our benefit.
Here’s a little fact: Gaon s aren’t a bad place to live. In fact, some of them are way better than any metro. And these exemplary examples prove just that.
1. Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village
Mawlynnong, a small village in Meghalaya, was awarded the prestigious tag of ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’ in 2003 by Discover India Magazine. Located at about 90 kms from Shillong, the village offers a sky walk for you to take in the beauty as you explore it. According to visitors, you cannot find a single cigarette butt/plastic bag lying around there.
2. Punsari – The village with WiFi, CCTVs, AC classrooms and more
Punsari, located in Gujarat, puts most metros to shame. Funded by the Indian government and the village’s own funding model, Punsari is no NRI-blessed zone. The village also boasts of a mini-bus commute system and various other facilities. Believe it.
3. Hiware Bazar – The village of 60 millionaires
Hiware Bazar, located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, has transformed from being a place fraught with issues to being possibly the richest village in India. The sole reason for this fairy-tale change is one man called Popatrao Pawar. He banned all addictive substances to minimize expense and encouraged the villagers to invest in rain-water harvesting, milch cattle, etc.
There are a record 60 millionaires in the village and barely any poor. From 168 Below Poverty Line families in 1995, Hiware Bazar now has just three. The villagers continue to strive to see a day when not one person is poor.
4. Dharnai – First fully solar-powered village
Dharnai, a village in Bihar, beat 30 years of darkness by developing its own solar-powered system for electricity. With the aid of Greenpeace, Dharnai declared itself an enery-independent village in July. Students no long need to limit their studies to the day time, women no longer limit themselves to stepping out in the day in this village of 2400 residents. Now if only cities could do the same, right?
5. Chappar – A village that distributes sweets when a girl is born
Chappar village in Haryana has a woman Sarpanch. But Neelam is no ordinary Sarpanch. She made it her life’s mission to change the attitude of the villagers towards women, and she succeeded. Not only do the women of the village not wear the ghunghat anymore, but despite Haryana being the state with the lowest girls ratio (an abysmal 877) in this village every newborn, regardless of his/her sex, is welcomed into the world with sweets and festivities.
6. Kokrebellur – A village that really loves its birds
Kokrebellur, a small village in Karnataka, believes in the conservation of nature. While most other villages consider birds a nuisance because they harm crops, Kokrebellur boasts of rare species of birds that fly around and don’t even mind humans much. The villagers treat their winged compatriots as family and have even created an area for wounded birds to rest and heal. Wonderful, isn’t it?
7. Ballia – The village that beat arsenic poisoning with an indigenous method
Ballia village of Uttar Pradesh had an itchy problem to deal with. The water that the villagers were drinking contained arsenic, which causes serious skin problems and even physical deformation. What is arsenic, you ask? A harmless element on its own, but when combined with oxygen or water, it turns toxic.
Ironically, the village faced the problem after the government introduced many hand-pumps in the area for easy water access. The level at which the hand-pumps were dug led to excessive interaction between arsenic and water. When the villagers realised what had happened, instead of waiting for the government to act on it, they (physically) fixed their old wells and went back to an older, safer time. The best part? Even 95-year-old Dhanikram Verma joined in.
8. Pothanikkad – The village with a 100% literacy rate
Unsurprisingly in Kerala, Pothanikkad village was the first in the country to achieve a 100% literacy rate. Not only does the village boast of city-standard high-schools, but it also has primary schools and private schools. Guess the number of people the village has educated? Well, according to the 2001 census there are 17563 residents living in the village. The best part is that it answers the question.
9. Bekkinakeri – The village that rid itself of open defecation by ‘greeting’ lota -bearers
Bekkinakeri village in Karnataka has redefined the point of wishing someone a ‘Good morning’. Frustrated with the practice of open defecation, the village council attempted to curb it by requesting people to not do so. When that didn’t work, they stationed themselves early morning near ‘popular’ defecation sites and wished every perpetrator a very good morning. The trick worked! Too embarrassed to go on with their business, the openly defecating population has now stopped the practice completely.
10. Shani Shingnapur – A village so safe that people don’t need doors
Shani Shingnapur, located in Maharashtra, is a village that defies every newspaper report you have ever read. Touted as the safest village in India, this place is known for its lack of doors to houses. Not just that, there is no police station in the village. And no, we are not making this up.
By the way, Shani Shingnapur has ‘broken’ another interesting record. The village has the country’s first lockless bank branch (UCO bank) now.