Himanshu Patel was born and brought up in Punsari village in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat. However, once he was done with his schooling, the family shifted to a nearby town for Himanshu further education.
It was then that the difference between town and village became clear to Himanshu, in his trips back to the village during his holidays.
In the village, there was no electricity, no water system and law and order were almost out of control. There would be at least one police case every month due to feuds in the village. By the time Himanshu completed his graduation, the situation had worsened.
Even while he was studying, Himanshu researched on government schemes that could be adopted to change the situation in the village. He would voluntarily work for the betterment of the community and urge the Sarpanch and other authorities to make use of the schemes. Himanshu realized the only way to bring about change was to hold a dominant position in the village.
The road ahead was not that easy!
There were 23 different communities in the village, which today has a population of 6000. People were non-cooperative when it came to adopting a better living style. 98 per cent of the villagers were uneducated and in the agriculture or dairy farm business. The Panchayat had no funds at all. Rather, it had a debt of Rs 1.2 Lakh, and there were influential people always ready to oppose the new Sarpanch.
The first step that Himanshu took to improve the village was to build trust among the villagers. He tried to understand the priorities of the villagers and what they wanted.
In the first three years of his tenure, he took care of all the basic needs of the villagers. Himanshu was very firm in that he would not seek the help of any NGO or CSR or any donations for funds. Instead, he used government schemes to fill the gap.
He started applying for schemes efficiently and adjoined new schemes too. Within two years, i.e. by 2008, the village had electricity, street lights were installed at appropriate places, a water distribution system was installed, pucca roads were developed, and a toilet was built at every house of the village.
In 2009, Himanshu installed 12 speakers across the village to communicate with the villagers. The speakers were connected to the Gram Panchayat office from where he would announce government schemes that could help villagers. He would also give birthday wishes and condolences on someone’s death from this central announcement system.
This filled in all the communication gap between the villagers and the Gram Panchayat. Himanshu has also connected his mobile to these speakers so that he can stay in touch with the villagers even if he is out-of-station.
The village is also WiFi enabled. The villagers can get 30 Mbps data by registering themselves at the panchayat for Rs 50 per month.
CCTV cameras were installed at various places such as classrooms and all the government offices in the village. The footage from the cameras can be viewed on mobile phones through an app.
Correspondingly, the Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was high as even pregnant ladies had to do this. This issue was resolved by starting the village’s own transport system.
A mini bus now drops the women every morning and evening to the milk bank and back to their home. Villagers can go anywhere in the village in this van by paying a token amount of just Rs 2.
After 2008 the village is 100% vaccinated. And the result is that the MMR and IMR have gone down to zero. There are no malnourished children in the village, and all the deliveries are done by qualified by doctors in the hospital and not at home.
Himanshu, who wants Punsari to become the world’s best village, has completed his 10-year tenure as the Sarpanch of the village recently He continues his legacy he has trained 100 youngsters, who will contest for the Panchayat elections.
The only mantra that Himanshu gives to the next generation is that “Don’t migrate from villages due to lack of amenities, rather get the amenities of the cities here but keep the spirit of the village alive”.