Emerging Model Villages in India: A Study of Punsari Village from the State of Gujarat (India)
Although India no more lives in its villages, the rural population is still sizeable
and, more importantly, it reels under the pressure of extreme poverty, pitiable
basic amenities, and dearth of livelihood opportunities. Urbanisation and urban
growth has captured the attention of government and policy makers especially
in the post liberalisation period. However, much needs to be done to improve the
conditions of the people living in rural areas. Strengthening of village democracy
was considered as a possible solution to resolving issues at the grass-roots level.
This paved way for the historic 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) in
1993 which sought to empower people at the base of India’s federal polity. Encouraging
people’s participation in the process of development, policy making
and its implementation was the fundamental objective of this legislation. Twenty-
five years have passed since the adoption of the 73rd CAA in 1993 but still
much needs to be done. There is an urgent need to transform the rural landscape
of India and bring it on a par with its urban counterparts while retaining the
soul of rural life. The case of village Punsari from the Sabharkantha District of
the state of Gujarat (India) is unique as it stands out as a smart and model village.
All the modern amenities found in an urban area are available in this village.
Using descriptive analytical framework, the paper aims to argue that such
smart villages are a ray of hope for the rural revitalisation in Indian countryside.
Semi-structured interviews with the local leaders, officers, and stakeholders form
an important part of the research used to generate insights and conclusions. The
paper argues that grass-roots leadership, community participation, decentralisation
of powers to local bodies in rural areas, and financial support in the form
of various government schemes can bring far-reaching changes in the rural landscape
of India. Punsari represents a classic example as well as an exemplar of
concerted efforts of elected leaders, community people, and government support
to bring about transformation and make villages smart as well as sustainable.