|People's Participation in Managing Common Pool Natural Resources : Lessons of Success in India (IRMA, 1992, 26 p.)|
Ralegan Siddhi is perhaps India's first model of micro-watershed development initiated and fostered by local people under the guidance of an enlightened and benevolent local leader. The Ralegan Siddhi project was launched in 1975. The major force behind the project is Padma Shri Anna Hazare who, after retirement from the Indian army in 1975, returned to his native village-Ralegan Siddhi and started village reconstruction and development work. The project is well-known all over the country and well-documented (Patil, 1988; Pangare and Pangare, 1991). Ralegan Siddhi is a village of about 2,100 people located in the drought-prone Parnal tehsil of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. A profile of the village is given in Table 1. The village receives scanty rainfall of only 250-300 mm annually. Hence, the highest priority in the project was given to harvesting and conservation of rain-water. The project covered four watersheds and a total geographical area of about 962 ha of which about 651 ha was cultivable, 137 ha forest land, 123 ha revenue wasteland, and 51 ha village pasture land. The total expenditure incurred on the project from 1975-76 to 1985-86 was about Rs.11.42 million of which Rs.4.74 million (about 42%) was granted by the Government of Maharashtra, Rs.4.08 million borrowed from the Bank of Maharashtra, Rs.1.34 million contributed by the local people mainly through shramdan (voluntary contribution of labour), Rs. 1 million granted by various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the remainder by other sources including Anna Hazare who donated Rs.87,000. (Pangare and Pangare, 1991). The average cost of the project per ha of the total geographical area covered was about Rs. 11,761 which included the cost of a hostel building (Rs.16 lakhs) and a veterinary hospital (Rs.one lakh).
A series of 31 check dams and nala bunds constructed under the project have created about 282,000 cubic metre water storage capacity that has resulted in increased availability of ground water. This has facilitated sinking of community wells. Water from these wells supplied at a moderate rate has enabled the farmers to grow two or three crops every year including fruits and vegetables which are now exported even to Dubai. As a result of increased availability of water for irrigation, the total cropped area in the watershed increased from 619 ha in the pre-project period to 859 ha in 1985-86. The project had a significant positive impact on crop, milk yield, fodder produc-tion, employment, and incomes. It has been observed that after the implementation of the project, no villager goes out of the village in search of work as they used to before.
The villagers have participated whole-heartedly in the project and have contributed through both Shramdan and cash. All the soil and water conservation structures were built through community action. The villagers have completely stopped grazing their animals on common property lands and have switched to stall-feeding which has become possible as a result of increased grass production from the common property land after stoppage of grazing. They have stopped illicit lopping and felling of common property trees and planted more than two lakh trees mostly on the common property lands including hill slopes. This has prevented soil erosion besides providing a variety of products such as fuel wood, fodder, fruits etc. To enlist people's participation in the village development work including the project activities, Anna Hazare has organised the villagers into some ten different associations of which six are engaged in development and management of CPNR of land, water, and forests. Equitable distribution of water among the eligible farmers is ensured through various Pani Puravatha Mandals (Water Supply Associations). Anna Hazare uses the forum of Gram Sabha to introduce new ideas and seek people's involvement in refining and implementing them. He makes sure that the final decisions taken in such meetings are considered by the majority of the villagers as their own.
The Ralegan Siddhi experience shows that the rural people under the guidance and leadership of good, enlightened and honest persons could develop and manage their CPNR and distribute the benefits equitably. Given proper leadership, the Ralegan Siddhi model can be replicated in other villages in India. Anna Hazare is now trying to institutionalise the model by training rural youth who have volunteered to follow in his footsteps.
When villagers are well-informed about the various rural development programmes launched by the government for their benefit and when they are organised and have the support and guidance of good local leaders, they can demand from the government officials what is meant for them and thus achieve their common goal of development through their own resources supplemented by funds earmarked by various governmental and non-governmental organisations for rural development (Table 2).