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Rahul Noronha , Village Republic “India Today” 22/5/2017

Concrete streets swept clean every morning, underground sewerage, lush parks, a hundred per cent literacy rate (the best among MP's 50,000 villages), Baghuwar is proof of what the collective will of a community can accomplish.

Just 4 km from the Narsinghpur-Piparia highway, Baghuwar has never witnessed a local election barring a single exception for the post of sarpanch in 2014. Panchayat members, the sarpanch, the second tier janpad panchayat member, the cooperative society president, they are all appointed through consensus. "There's never any disagreement," says R.S. Narolia, a retired civil servant who returned to live here in his ancestral home.

Incredibly, the key to their success story is the villagers' refusal to rely on government grants alone to get things done. Local resident Shriniwas Malviya tells you that financial support from the state is most often only a fraction of what the village actually spends on a project. Not happy, for instance, with the Rs 1.5 lakh state grant for a new community centre, villagers pooled resources and spent Rs 7 lakh for a building more suited to their needs.

And it's not just about funds. Baghuwar's people also insist on finalising the engineering details of most projects without assistance from MP's Rural Engineering Services. Like the check dam to rejuvenate the dying Dhamni river which raised the water table from 150 feet to a much happier 30 feet, hugely improving farm operations, and innumerable other ventures including a new building to replace the British-era schoolhouse, bridges, culverts and the concrete streets.

The self-reliant intent has reached their fields too. Residents now have the services of 35 tractors and 75 crusher machines to process the bountiful sugarcane harvest. They are also progressively moving on to organic farming. "We owe everything to the village. It is time to give back," Narolia says, a sentiment everyone here echoes.

Baghuwar is now a model panchayat, serving as a training centre for panchayat members from across the state. Also key to their story is the management of local caste equations. The tiny hamlet includes Thakurs, Dalits, Kaachis (vegetable growers) and Gaurs (OBC farming community). Yet even inter-caste marriages never become an issue here.

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