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Punsari, a ‘Smart Neighborhood’ of Community Solutions

Would you imagine a village of six thousand, warmly greeting you with smiles for the reason they live in a safe neighborhood with surveillance cameras in all locations; a smart community in which messages and announcements from the village head office (Gram Panchayat Office) can instantly be delivered to its residents through speakers in addition to also conveying wishes and condolences to individual households during various occasions; an innovative small agrarian society in which wastes are converted into energy; a self reliant community where economic opportunities are created at their own level through skill development centers; a vital rural community with free Wi-Fi connections and a toll free facility, a neighborhood rich in water supply and transportation innovations of their own, and of all a group of people with the same vision, belief, tendency and agreement?

If you cannot, then do. For such a village exists somewhere, urging us for a revolution in how we think, act and work.

Located about an hour’s drive from Gandinagarh city in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, Punsari village has certainly reaped the results of its people’s wisdom of oneness and the strong willpower of its Sarpanch (elected leader of the village) in no time. The people here portray the human values of respect, care, and an intellect of ownership which otherwise remain only in talks in most other parts of the world. The much ahead-of-time frame of mind and civilization in its people is what gives their village the brand ‘A Model Village’.

The village has appropriate manual waste collection methods and a mini water-treatment-plant to cater to the people with clean drinking water. In short, the village has everything it needs and this is proven by honors and recognitions from the present Prime Minister of India and other apex organizations certifying green initiatives.

What is surprising is the village neither looked for external funds from private developers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) nor from financial institutions to finance their development. Instead of citizens making even a small monetary contribution, the village endeavored in efforts, which would qualify them for grants from various government schemes. How inspiring it is that the lack of initial manpower for a team to work for the improvement of the village was seen as potency by the newly elected Sarpanch for which he formed a sixty member team from already appointed government employees of the village. This included teachers, health workers among others. He asked them to progress step-by-step in their own fields. The first step Himanshu, the young Sarpanch, took to improve the village was build trust among the villagers. His main motivation was to curb the rampant rural urban migration, which to an extent has been achieved. He has transformed the village into something, which would strike an outsider with a sense of intimacy. People are not only pleasant but represent how truly Indians actually are. Crimes are out of sight. People rather stay back in the village seeing no better environments elsewhere.

Such transformations are very much feasible in our Bhutanese society where our living propels on the principles of good human values, religious precepts, environmental considerations, and societal cohesiveness. The only thing we need is to do is to come together and work for common solutions like the village of Punsari. If united, we would innovate answers to many of our questions on waste, crime, transportation, pollution and even corruption. The biggest challenge is coming together. Sarpanch Himanshu clearly states that planning and development of an area should be through a bottom-up approach where people themselves identify their needs and ways these needs could be achieved. Like Punsari people, our people should not be hesitant to come forward with ideas and engage themselves throughout the development phases of any projects. For instance, a footpath constructed in a community would accompany minimum shortfalls if the beneficiaries would monitor the quality of construction even once or twice during or after its construction.

In addition, the already few employees of the Punsari village office are genuinely serving the village unlike most of the employees in our country. Neither money nor career opportunities drive them insane, but the intend to serve the community. Shift to such mentality by the capable manpower of our nation will no doubt liberate the nation’s concerns. Another approach should be, like the Sarpanch says, don’t make so many big plans but formulate many small plans, which really matters.

It is with deep sense of urgency that the Bhutanese people at least read and know about this village. More can be found on the village on Google and a talk among many by the Sarpanch is at available at www.youtube.com/ watch? v=wgfTaV1F8i8&t=296s.

 

Contributed By

Tashi Tobgay,

Urban Planner,

Thimphu Thromde, 

Thimphu

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