Ralegan Siddhi impresses Congress MP P.T. Thomas

Jaisingh Mapari, the sarpanch of Anna Hazare's village Ralegan Siddhi (Ahmednagar district) will meet AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Monday, after an invitation on his behalf from senior Congress MP P.T. Thomas.

Mr. Mapari said Mr. Thomas visited Ralegan Siddhi, and being impressed with the ‘model village' that Mr. Hazare had created, was keen that Mr. Gandhi too experience it himself.

However, the visit is also expected to pave the way for the anti-graft crusader and Mr. Gandhi to discuss the Jan Lokpal Bill. “We have taken permission from Mr. Anna, and he said that he is ready to discuss the issue in an open forum, if it will get a strong anti-corruption Bill for the country. Mr. Anna said he will not have any secret talks,” Mr. Mapari told The Hindu over telephone from Ralegan Siddhi.

Asked what the agenda for the Monday meeting will be, Mr. Mapari said he would gauge Mr. Gandhi's willingness to visit Ralegan Siddhi and then extend an invitation. “I will tell him that Mr. Anna is ready to have a chat, and that he can come to the village on a convenient date,” Mr. Mapari said.

Story of self-reliance

Mr. Mapari said Mr. Thomas had visited the village, and had observed how self-reliant it was. “He saw the successful implementation of transforming a famine-struck village through drip irrigation. He himself saw that the village was free of any kind of addictions; when he asked at several shops if he could get tobacco and cigarettes, he couldn't get any. He spoke to the Dalits of the village, who told him the level of acceptance and love the villagers had shown them. He was very impressed with the village, and expressed the hope that Mr. Gandhi too would see it,” Mr. Mapari said.

“He said Ralegan Siddhi fulfils the idea of Mahatma Gandhi's dream village. We have told him that we will extend every support to take the model of Ralegan across the country,” he added.

Mr. Mapari said Ralegan Siddhi was transformed by Mr. Hazare in the last three decades, by way of irrigation, watershed development programmes, abolition of untouchability, prohibition of alcohol and tobacco, giving powers to the Gram Sabha, and encouraging education; thus achieving reverse migration and self-reliance.

The village has been declared an ‘Adarsh Gaon' (Ideal Village) by the Maharashtra government. The State has a scheme called the Adarsh Gaon Yojana, which seeks to implement the Ralegan Siddhi model in other parts of Maharashtra. According to Adarsh Gaon Yojana Executive Director Popat Pawar, 38 villages are now ‘Adarsh' in the State.

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