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An IRS Officer Fast-Tracks His Village’s Fortune

IRS officer Ghanshyam Soni has transformed his native village with proper roads, solar lights, CCTV cameras, and rainwater harvesting Mr. Soni believes the only way to end migration into already overcrowded urban zones, is through rural development He has presented his 10 suggestions to Union Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj to replicate at a national level
Indian Masterminds Stories

Located in Marwar Junction tehsil of Rajasthan’s Pali district, Melawas is a unique village.

Once struggling with low groundwater levels, now replenished by many resourceful projects by one of her sons.

This quaint village can give many towns competition when it comes to development and growth, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Ghanshyam Soni, an IRS officer (custom and central excise).

With the help of local leaders and the community, Mr. Soni who lost his mother as a child has done many things to help his surrogate mother — his native village. 

Now Additional Commissioner in Ahmedabad, Mr. Soni’s efforts have made Melawas self-sufficient and put it on track of sustainable growth.

The 2009 batch IRS told Indian Masterminds in an exclusive conversation how he has been able to make Melawas smart.

SWACHH MELAWAS

His dedication towards his village started long before he joined the civil services. He took responsibility of transforming it even when he was an Assistant lecturer for a few years.

During the panchayat elections, he educated people to choose representatives judiciously. 

Now, he is contributing with money and mobilizing village leaders and Bhamashah (financially well person) to support his dream. 

The officer’s first target was removing encroachments and building a four-km road connecting Dhundhala with the help of PWD.

In 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi started the Swachh Bharat Mission, Mr. Soni took the responsibility of ‘Swachh Melawas’. 

With the help of Panchayat Samiti, he cleared two km of encroached land and created a green belt. 

“We were able to construct a riverfront and beautified it with plants brought from Gujarat and Pali. Those have now created a full green cover giving Melawas a great view,” he said.

CONSERVING RAINWATER

The entire Marwar junction was once declared a black zone as groundwater depleted below 500ft. 

To solve this, Mr. Soni gathered villagers and took help of the local MLA. With the lawmakers’ fund brought about a proper drainage system and rainwater harvesting that replenished groundwater to 250ft. 

Now tubewells get easily recharged and there is no further drinking water crisis.

ELEMENTARY NEEDS

Melawas’ two rivers — Chhaili and Guhiya — beds were encroached on by the sand mining
mafia. 

“As per the Supreme Court guidelines and National Green Tribunal only 3km mining is allowed in rivers. And with the desert state Rajasthan already struggling, mining is restricted. Villagers campaigned to end the mafia activities,” says the officer.

The village also has a 9 KW Solar plant that powers more than 130 street lights. 

Around 15 CCTV cameras are protecting Melawas that has all basic amenities — utility shops, saloon, vehicle repair.

ON KHELO INDIA MAP

Mr. Soni’s village has a playground with two volleyball courts, two badminton courts, a running track, and an open gym, which may be missing in millions of other villages and towns

The officer says, “The government has given the slogan of ‘Khelo India’. We need to build such playgrounds and provide the opportunity then only the youngster can play.”

GRASSROOT DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Soni is thankful not just to the villagers but also his big brother who has been helping
him achieve all these goals at the ground level. 

As Mahatma Gandhi said India’s soul resides in the village so the focus must be on rural development, that is Mr. Soni’s guiding principle.

“The cities are already overcrowded fighting crime to pollution. The only way to stabilize the migration of people is the sustainable growth of rural India,” says Mr. Soni.

The officer wants every village to be like Melawas. “By building developed and smart villages we can build a smart nation,” says Mr. Soni who recently met the Union Minister of Rural.

Development and Panchayati Raj Mr. Giriraj Singh and shared his 10 suggestions.

If given the opportunity, the officer is ready to work on a national level for the betterment of rural India.


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