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Bharti-Walmart 'push' changes face of Punjab village
Thursday, April 08, 2010 04:26:15 PM, Alkesh Sharma, IANS
Malerkotla (Punjab): Haider Nagar in Sangrur district was an economically backward, little known village until the other day. Today it takes pride in higher crop yield, better sanitation and energy-efficient solutions. A community programme, launched by Bharti-Walmart India, the wholesale retail venture between Bharti Enterprises and Wal-Mart Stores of the US, has changed the face of the predominantly Muslim village.
Called "sustainable agricultural programme", it has increased the yield, enhanced the quality of farm produce and managed higher price-realisation for the village's small and marginal farmers, says the company.
"We believe that every system works like a fly-wheel where we just need to give an initial push. Thereafter, it automatically gains momentum and starts yielding positive results. Here, we have also imparted that initial push," Raj Jain, managing director and chief executive of the venture, told IANS.
Part of Bharti-Walmart's plan to provide quality fresh produce to retail stores through an efficient supply chain management, the programme provides closed loop sanitation and energy-efficient solutions through modern toilets and bio-gas plants.
Haider Nagar now flaunts 80 toilets with a proper sewerage system. Posters carrying messages to improve hygiene are displayed in the narrow lanes of this village.
There was no proper waste management system in the area. More than 50 percent of the household garbage used to be dumped either in empty plots or on the road. Now 20 community dustbins have been installed from where the waste will be directly taken to the biogas plants.
The company has installed seven bio-gas plants and aims to establish 175 more by the year-end. "The biogas plant will help to conserve gas energy and utilize the waste generated from cattle and toilets. It would also help to maintain the environment cleaner and healthier," said Jain.
Bharti-Walmart has also started a health and education programme. Jain said when they started working in this village, most of the girls did not go to school.
"Today, all the non-school going children have been given the basic education required to mainstream them in government schools," he said.
And to facilitate all this, six self-help groups have been formed which serve as an effective interface between the local community and the company.
"We have also ensured effective participation of the community to bring about a sense of responsibility among the people, thus ensuring future maintenance. People are encouraged to participate in different ways like in some cases they are providing monitory contribution or labour or construction material," he said.
Villagers are also quite upbeat about the project.
"We are happy. Now we have toilets in our own courtyard. I could not even think about this a few months ago," said Asifa Noor, a mother of three.
There are 224 households in Haider Nagar. Before the start of this project only 50 percent households had toilets.
"Open defecation is a major problem in our village. Although there is a scheme of the central government to provide pucca toilets, our village had not been covered under this project till date," said Faizal Mohammed, a former sarpanch (village headman).
"We want to bring changes in the village at a broader level," Jain said.
The company hopes to replicate the development model in other villages.
Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com
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