Achieving Gram Swaraj through Community Participation
Organiser   01-Oct-2018
Odanthurai, a panchayat situated in Coimbatore district has been a model village that has striven to achieve self-sufficiency and outlining the principles of Gandhian Swaraj
Gram Swaraj, or village self-rule, is a pivotal concept in Mahatma Gandhi's thinking. The fundamental concept of Gram Swaraj as he wished was that every village should be independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is necessary. Odanthurai, a panchayat situated in Mettupalayam taluk of Coimbatore district, has been a model village that has striven to achieve self-sufficiency as envisaged by Gandhiji.

 
Odanthurai Housing Scheme 
 
Two decades ago, the panchayat had seen no development. It was after Shanmugam became the panchayat president in 1996, development and striving for self-sufficiency became norm. The villages in the panchayat had no proper access to even water and electricity. As soon as he became the president of the Panchayat, Shanmugam primarily worked on access towater, energy and housing. The villagers, who were living in abject poverty, were uplifted over a decade through a host of development schemes.
A pilot housing project was implemented in Odanthurai in 1997 where 45 houses were built. Likewise, houses were built each year and by 2006 more than 850 houses were built
There was only one elementary school in the panchayat and children had to travel 10 kms to attend. There were many drops out due to this. Now there is a primary, a middle and high school in the panchayat due to which there is no drop out and the number of village children attending school has risen drastically.
 
In order to provide proper housing for all, a village poverty reduction committee was set up in the panchayat, through which the needy and the poor were identified. A pilot housing project was implemented in Odanthurai in 1997 where 45 houses were built. Likewise, houses were built each year and by 2006 more than 850 houses were built and there were no makeshift huts in the villages.

 
 Odanthurai Wind Mill
 
A micro-finance scheme at low interest rates was designed for bringing up individual families. People in need of income or jobs were also given free training. For instance, training was provided for setting up small shops, making jute bags, mats or starting a small enterprise. Bank loans were also arranged for those who wanted to start businesses.
 
Surplus power
The panchayat has also set up its own windmill and is generating income out of it. Odanthurai, has it’s own wind mill of 350 kilowatt capacity set up at a cost of Rs 1.55 crore at Maivai near at Udumalai in the year 2005. Interestingly, it is selling nearly 2 lakh unit of electricity out of 6.75 lakh unit generated to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) and making revenue of more than Rs 20 lakh in a year. They are using about 4.75 lakh units, for the panchayat.
 
Odanthurai Panchayat has is also in the forefront in use of other renewable sources of energy as well. It has installed a 9kW biomass gasifier power generation system to substitute the grid electricity for pumping drinking water.
The Odanthurai panchayat has shown how a Panchayati Raj institution can achieve holistic rural development with the help of wise leadership and community participation, as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi.