Hiware Bazar: India’s Richest Village

From poverty to prosperity: Hiware Bazar transformed by grassroots leadership, sustainable farming, and community-driven development, becoming India's richest village.

Did you know about India’s richest village? You must be thinking how’s that possible, and if villages were in fact rich why would they remain a village, correct? But it's true! Hiware Bazar of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra is the richest village in India and home to 60 millionaires. Situated on the western side of Ahmednagar, Hiware Bazar was a drought-prone, backward, crime-mounded, and highly impoverished village. It was highly ignored by government authorities too. Most residents possessed land in Hiware but were unable to perform farming because of continuous droughts. Most youngsters left Hiware at the age of 15 to work in neighboring cities. As a result, manufacturing and selling of illegal alcohol became the source of income for the villagers. Alcoholism, gambling, and crime were widespread & became a part of villagers’ lives. More than 90% of families lived below the poverty line (BPL). Hiware lacked essential medical facilities. It registered less than a 30% literacy rate as no teacher was willing to teach in the local school due to the village’s bad reputation. But all this began to change in 1989 when the 26-year-old postgraduate villager Popatrao Baguji Pawar returned to Hiware. He returned to the Hiware with the aim to improve the status of his village. Pawar won the 1990 panchayat elections and was selected as the sarpanch. The first action Pawar took was to ensure the availability of clean drinking water. There were only two handpumps in Hiware and that too was broken. The women of the village had to travel up to 3 km every day to fetch water. Pawar approached the taluka panchayat samiti and got 2 new hand pumps installed. By 1993, Pawar had re-established and expanded the local school up to class 10 with the help of government subsidiaries. Pawar guided the villagers and made development plans based on the priorities set by the villagers themselves. The villagers prioritized safe drinking water, irrigation water, employment, education, and health. Pawar knew that apart from the basic human necessities, villagers desperately needed to earn their livelihood through stable & legal ways of farming. But this seemed impossible because Hiware is a drought-prone area and receives less than 15 inches of rainfall a year. Therefore, Pawar taught trench farming (see picture) to the villagers. In trench farming, deep & narrow trenches/ channels are dug alongside the slopes of hilly farmlands to capture water when it flows downhill and keep it around crops. He also introduced rainwater harvesting and techniques of reforestation to the villagers and started the construction of Hiware’s first watershed in 1992. A watershed is an area of land that collects & drains or “sheds” water into a nearby lake, river, or pond. As a result, Hiware’s groundwater level rose and stabilized, and farmers started cultivating more than one seasonal crop per year. Increased cultivation resulted in increased income and increased education resulted in increased opportunities & better understanding of the world. Today, Hiware is regarded as the prime example of sustainable rural development. It has safe water and sanitation for all and has a more than 69% literacy rate. It has a secondary school, and many students pursue careers in teaching or engineering. It is regarded as the ‘green model village’ because it has 294 water wells with Agricultural and cattle farming as the main source of income. The quality of life has drastically improved in less than 2 decades. In 1995, 168 of 182 families were classified as poor but today, only three are. The villagers earn an average of Rs 30,000 every month. Out of the 235 families at present, 60 are millionaires. As a result, villagers who left Hiware earlier to become laborers in cities returned for better life opportunities. Today, no villager lives in kutcha homes in Hiware. It now has only one kutcha home which has been preserved as a museum. Hiware is one of the cleanest villages in our country. Each residence has its own toilet; therefore no one defecates or urinates in public. The village also has multiple biomass plants that provide basic electricity and manure to farmers for organic farming. In the last 2 decades, the villagers have planted some 35 lakh trees that have enriched the local wildlife and constructed a mosque & Buddhist shrine to further establish unity and brotherhood. The village has earned the title of ‘Ideal Village’ by the Maharashtra government.’ PM Modi had also congratulated the village head and the villagers in a Mann Ki Baat radio address in 2016. Pawar is now the chairman of Adarsh Gaon Yojana – Maharashtra’s Model Village Program and aims to similarly develop 100 other villages.