Jayant Patil is on a unique mission. The minister of rural development wants to hold 120 sabhas and talk directly to villagers about the eco-village scheme. Sayli Udas Mankikar chats with Patil during his 56th sabha, packed with more than 800 villagers at Pangara in Paithan.
There is much talk about his pet comment where he tells the men that if Mughal emperor Shahajahan could build Taj Mahal for Mumtaz, why "can't they build a toilet for their wives".
It is only when one visits the interiors of Maharashtra that one understands what a rage the eco-village scheme has become?
This is the flagship programme of our department that we took up over a year ago and it is a cause that has cut across party lines.
Everyone feels there is a need for a change in rural Maharashtra and this provides the ladder for transformation.
What is so unique about this programme. Why do you think it will be a sustainable?
The programme is a complete one, which covers ecology, cleanliness and even tax collections that will only lead to pumping more money into villages.
We have adopted a carrot-and-stick approach wherein we will give funds only after targets are met. Also, we will keep checking if the targets are maintained.
After the three-year period, we will get help from local colleges and help the villages chart out their own ecological plans to take the project ahead.
You are actually going village to village, talking to people on the scheme and on global warming, instead of using to posters and leaflets.
It is one of the most unique experiences for me to be able to directly tell the villagers what we foresee for them. No other advertisement means can get this kind of response.
I have completed 56 sabhas and have 60 more to go. I try to communicate to them in their own language at the sabhas and try to get the message across. It is heartening to see that after I have spoken to them. Even children have planted trees in their names.