Smart[er] Village Project Dharnichiwadi Village- Raigad, Maharashtra, CRISIL




Anukriti Awasthi, Parineeta Banerjee, Arjun Beri, Guruprasad Iyer, Hridya Ravimohan, Tejinder Sidhu

Mind Genius Charitable Trust Team

Hriitu Rana, Saajid, Madhuri Kanhane, Grace Fernandes, Francis

SME Consultants

Rakesh Bangera (Director, Urban Practice, CRISIL), Dipika Tuteja (Architect/Editor at In AWE)

Project Background & Summary
Dharnichiwadi is located in Raighad District of Maharashtra, about 75 kilometres from Mumbai township. This settlement is home to people from Katkari tribal community of Maharashtra. This settlement is located in one part of the Dharni village. The other group of people that resides in the Dharni village belongs to the local Maratha community. Historically there has been a wide developmental gap between these two sections of this village, despite being part of the same geography. Such disparity is common in many rural (and urban) parts of India. Inequality in opportunities to earn a livelihood, to good education; access to basic amenities, including, medical facilities, clean drinking water, electricity and clean environment; is widespread in many parts of rural India. CRISIL team wanted to take up an initiative to showcase the impact of bringing in focussed development to such isolated and forgotten parts of our rural landscape. However, right from the stage of conception, our goal was not to urbanize these villages, but to bring about holistic changes keeping the local social and environmental fabric intact. Our objective was to understand the imminent problems that a village faced and bring about visible changes in the scene.


As a tribal hamlet, Dharnichiwadi is highly under-resourced and under-developed as compared to it’s adjacent Maratha village counterpart. Dharnichiwadi  constitutes of 50-60 households and a population of over 250 men, women and childen.

Main occupation of the villagers is working as daily-wage labourers, mostly working as a construction worker or as bamboo handicraft workers in the neighbouring villages and towns (e.g., Matheran, Karjat, Chouk). Women and children typically engage in in household activities and tend to the infants in the families. Disturbingly many of the families are also involved in the preparation and sale of the local liquor. These activities are driven by lack of opportunities and also due to the traditions that have persisted over time. Some of the issues and challenges that the residents face are

  1. Lack of educational facilities – There is a primary school in the village till grade 4. Some children study beyond grade 4 in a school in the nearby village (Chouk). However, due to lack of transportation many of the students drop-out (especially, girl child).
  2. Lack of clean drinking water – The well in the village is dried up, and the water table in the village is very low. This situation has been further exacerbated due to the multiple drought years. There is a water connection in the village which gets intermittent water supply from the neighbouring dam. On days when there is water supply, it lasts for only an hour or two, and is not sufficient for the village. For the additional needs, women have to walk some distance to gather water from a nearby river (which is only seasonal and may not be clean), or a hand-pump in the other part of the village.
  3. Lack of Sanitation facilities and poor hygiene – Open defecation is a way of life in the village and despite some households having constructed toilets next to their houses, don’t use them. Scarcity of water supply also dissuade the villagers from using the toilets. The surrounding area in the village is littered with plastic and other trash, with no designated area for the collection of garbage. The huts are plastered with cow dung and is known to cause worm infestation in children.
  4. Lack of occupational opportunities – The village has no vocational training programme. Villagers are, therefore, forced to take up jobs which only require physical labour. Skill development is an area where the village can benefit massively from.

In addtion to the ones listed above there are other social (caste discrimination) and envirornmental (rocky terrain, non-farming land, no irrigation facility, drought ridden seasons) issues that affect the lives in the village. However, for our Change the Scene initiative we priortized the tasks to be carried out in the village in consultation with the NGO partner and the local representatives.

Smart[er] village project has been executed under a limited time frame of 3 months. Our team and volunteer groups made several trips to the village site during the course of the project.

During our initial visits we rigorously assessed the scope and impact of providing a sustainable developmental programme to the village which may address some of the hard pressing problems. In our assessment the issue that emerged to be most critical was the water scarcity.

The region has very low water table and during dry seasons the villagers have a hard time procuring water for their daily needs. Water scarcity further created challenges around crop or fish farming, poor sanitation practice and the overall state of the villagers.

Therefore, we designed a holistic Smart[er] village programme to address multiple interconnected issues.

We developed a Hard intervention as well as Soft intervention multi-prong support programme[1], as shown in the table below, to bring about a change in the village.

CRISIL Re (Change the Scene) –  Smart[er] Village Project
Hard Intervention Support Soft Intervention Support
Functional Areas Rain Water Harvesting Clean Drinking Water Reservoir Health, Hygiene & Sanitation Awareness Education & Financial Literacy
Key Points – Need or Use
– Land Availability
– Volume of Water Required
– Current Supply Sources
– Method – Surface or Ground Water
– Need or Use
– No. to be constructed
– Location
– Type (Brick, Cement)
– Water supply (Rain water collection and direct supply)
– Population, Gender mix, Age Groups
– Existing Literacy Levels and Education support (especially for children)
– Occupation
– Access to banks / finance
– Cleanliness drive
– Need for and form of vocational training


Each of the above tasks were rigorously monitored throughout the period of execution and  we received tremendous support from the villagers residing both in the Dharinichiwadi and the Dharni village. After identifying the activities, we had multiple discussions with the NGO partner and the village representatives to share our understanding of their needs, and how the interventions that we were planning are going to be bring about a significant change in their lives.

Volunteer Engagement

An initiative on the scale of Smart[er] village project required much commitment from various stakeholders, including, the core team members, CRISIL volunteers, external volunteers (friends & families), NGO representatives and local villagers.

The core team members invested much time in organizing the visits by taking care of the logistics involved with the trips, preparing the modules for Financial Literacy, education programmes, health and hygiene awareness sessions, cleanliness drives, Shoes & Clothes donation drive and brain-storming solutions with internal as well as external experts. There were many volunteers who contributed their time and ideas, behind the scenes, and many more who worked with the core team on the ground.

We had devised a well-structured volunteer programme, where CRISIL employees were given the opportunity to visit the village and participate in various activities.

During the entire course of project we recieved  support from over 60 volunteers both from within and outside the organization (approximately 50 volunteers were from CRISIL itself).

These volunteeres believed in theSmart[er] village project and took immense pride in supporting our cause. We not only had volunteers from Mumbai, but also hosted volunteers from different parts of the world such as Brazil, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

The diverse group of volunteers broughtmuch enthusiasm in our workshops and enriched the experiences of all the participants alike. With our volunteering programme we were able to clock in more than 800 volunteer hours (this includes only the hours towards the field visits and the workshops; preparation time put in by the core team and supporting volunteers is additional). The various activities that volunteers participated in were,

  1. Cleanliness drive
  2. Organizing Collection of Shoes & Clothes for donation in the village
  3. English Education and Drawing, Painting and 3D Model Building Workshop
  4. Financial Literacy Session
  5. Menstrual Hygiene & Sanitation Session for Women
  6. Rooftop water harvesting tank construction and supervision
  7. Groundwater Harvesting pond construction – Supervision of the JCB process along with technical planning
  8. Tree plantation
  9. Videography and photography of various events
  10. Preparing various modules
  11. Report writing and impact assessment

One of the unique features of employee engagement in Smart[er] village project is that it gave opportunity to every volunteer to share ideas on workshop material and add their perspective to concepts on Smart[er] village. For example, some of the key points/ideas that emerged from volunteers were putting larvae eating fish (Gambusia) in the pond to prevent mosquito breeding, various ideas around vocational training (for future engagement), etc. We also had various innovative activities such as role plays to convey importance of personal hygiene, art and craft projects, and sports activities. Our goal was to provide an engaging experience for the volunteers and also carry out impactful activites for the particip ants from the village.

A few of the highlights of our volunteering activities were participation by a female Medical Doctor (specialist in Community Medicine) who was able to bring in much rigour in our health and hygiene programmes, and also one of our volunteers was a DJ and who arranged an impromtu dance party for the Children in the village. Seeing the smiles on the faces of these children was most heartening and we had finally found an oasis in the desert!

Our volunteers were not only a crucial element of engagement and participation in the project but also served as a huge amount of motivation. Throughout the process of execution, our core team received feedback and suggestions for all of our activities which provided a good perspective at the implementation level. The programme also brought CRISIL employees from different divisions together for a common purpose and new friendships were also forged! The programme yet again proved to us that when a group of motivated individuals come together, mountains give way.

Project Execution Details

As can be seen in the schematic representation of Smart[er] village project above, there were various layers in project execution and it was crucial to implement all programmes in an efficient and coordinated manner.

In the following sections we describe the implementation steps for various activities, providing a commentary on their impact and potential extensions.

Rain Water Harvesting (RWH)

Execution Process: Rain water harvesting forms the core intervention of our initiative. To address the water scarcity issue we looked at multiple solutions and identified both, a short-term solution and a longer-term solution.

To address the overall water scarcity in the region we created a ground water harvesting reservoir. The reservoir was created next to the village settlement. This required heavy engineering equipment (JCB Machine, as shown in a picture on the next page) to clear land by digging out mud, boulders, etc., and to create embankments to hold the water. This reservoir covered an approximate area of 200 feet by 200 feet, with a depth of 4-5 feet. This water reservoir has been contructed keeping multiple purposes in mind. First, the water reservoir will help raise the water table in the region and addresses the long-term scarcity problem. Secondly, the water will be used for farming and maintaining a vegetable garden. Thirdly, the pond will be used for fish farming which can provide a source for livelihood for the villagers. The water can be used for all domestic purposes other than for consumption or cooking.

As a second sustainable solution to address the water supply issue, we took up construction of rooftop rain water harvesting infrastructure. As part of this solution, we fitted gutter and pipe system to collect rain water from the rooftop of the community hall and divert this water to a cemented water tank. This water tank has been fitted with a natural chemical-free filtration system (with charcoal, sand) and will provide clean drinking water. The water supply to this tank can always be enhanced by adding a pipline from the government water supply or by pumping water from the reservoir that has been constructed by our team. The tank volume is (5x5x4) ft cube with at least 4 feet of concrete foundation in the ground to stably hold the water tank. The tank is placed outside the community hall and specifically targeted for the collection and storage of water through roof-top harvesting which can be used by the children for micellaneous purposes. The storage capacity of the tank is approximately 2800 litres.

During our visits to the site, the volunteers helped us assess the technicalities underlying the structures and also critically evaluate the challenges in surface –water harvesting. Many volunteers participated in constructing the water tank, involving laying of bricks, cementing and painting the CRISIL logo. However, the majority of the infrastructure development work was contracted out by the NGO to a mason. This construction also provided temporary paid-labour to the villagers.

During the ongoing rains in the area the pond can be seen  filled with water. Moreover, to address some of the safety concerns of the villagers regarding the pond, we created a fence around the pond. The fence has been created using a green industrial-grade net, which also works to add to the aesthetics of the area. Further, with the help of NGO, we had tree plantation around the boundary of the pond. Specifically, bamboo trees have been planted around the pond which grow well in the local environment and will also provide valuable resource for commercial and personal use.

Impact & Highlights:

  • Rain water collected in the pond will contribute towards increase of overall water table in the village area.
  • Water reservoir is a permanent sustainable solution to multiple issues, including, water for daily chores (non-consumption), farming, fish farming and for sanitation purpose.
  • Water collected from the community hall rooftop in the cemented filtration tank will serveas a source of clean drinking water.

Education and Creative Sessions for Children

Execution Process : We conducted various workshops during our visits to engage children in learning as well as creative thinking and more importantly to inspire them to dream and think beyond their immediate environment. We began with basic sessions in English where each student by means of a role play was guided as to how to introduce themselves as a localities of the village. For younger children we had a session on English rhymes.

This followed up with a number of English speaking and interest based workshops wherein based on the students interest and learning accumen we sloted and ideated on themes which could help them come up with innovative results.  We observed that some of the students had great amount of interest in scientific models whereas some were interested in art workshops.

One of our most successful workshops was the smart village model building workshop. This primarily involved throughout engagement of our volunteers to help kids come up with innovative ideas on how an ideal smart village would look like. We provided them with necessary materials for building a 3D-model and kids participated in groups. From schools, hospitals, wells to proper garbage disposal pits, the kids of Dharni  beautifully touched up all the basics which met the smart village model  requirement.

We also screened an animation movie showing importance of heath and sanitation. The movie emphasized on the habit of washing hands and other good personal hygiene practices.

Impact & Highlights:

  • Marked improvement in self-confidence of Children from the village was observed. Over multiple visits by volunteers it was observed that children who were intially reluctant to even interact in their local language, were able to introduce themselves by speaking out their names in English. Videos showcasing this interactive session was recorded as an impact assessment of our workshops and games.
  • During the subsequent visits, the children were incorporating good cleanliness and sanitation practices, as taught to them during the learning sessions, and also ensured that their friends also follow suit. There was a positive psychological effect on the children when they witnessed the impact of keeping their environment clean.
  • Model building/drawing workshop was an important exercise that immensely helped the kids in bringing out their creativity while brainstorming on innovative ideas. This creative thinking is fundamendal to their mental growth.
  • Children with help from our participating volunteers, came up with creative ideas for a self sustainable village set-up. The 3D models, as can be seen in the pictures provided in this report, were meticulously prepared and were put on display in the computer center in the village (note that this computer center was set-up by our partner NGO in this village).

Sanitation, Health and Hygiene Awareness Campaign

Execution Process: Under health and sanitation program, our target audience included both children and women. Each week, we carried out mutiple sessions on standard health and sanitation practices and guided them on the importance of cleanliness.

One of main sessions involved an interactive Q&A with the women to understand their day to day approach towards menstruation and various other heath and sanitation concerns. We held a session on menstrual hygiene and sanitation practice for the women. The volunteers interacted with the women explaining cause and phases of menstrual cycle, basic hygiene practices during the cycle and encouraged them to discuss their problems and concerns regarding the same. They were also guided on proper disposal of sanitary pads. We had on-boarded a special community medicine doctor to guide the women on their medical concerns.

A Marathi movie specifically focussing  on women hygience was screened in the hall which was a successful exercise as almost all women and children attentively watched it and took valuable insights. Our volunteers played a key role in briefing them on the movie and providing neccesary inferences post the screening. We carried out a cleanliness drive where a team of 34 Volunteers, armed with brooms, hand gloves and garbage bags; collected plastic litter, garbage and paper trash strewn around the village. Children from the village enthusiastically participated in the drive, while the volunteers emphasized and educated them on importance of keeping the surroundings clean. Volunteers also spoke to families on the practice of throwing the garbage at only segregated areas and in the trash cans. Large amount of garbage was collected and the village community appreciated the “change in the scene”. Over the weeks more such drives were undertaken to break the habit of littering in the village.

Impact & Highlights:

  • The village women were not only attentive to detail during the sessions but also proactively participated in the Q&A.
  • They took suggestions from our medical officer and were helping each other in understanding the standard practices of hygience which helps live a heathy life.
  • In subsequent visits, we observed them being more open to discussions and sharing their day-to-day problems on issues regarding sanitation and hygiene.

Financial Literacy & Awareness

Execution Process: The financial literacy program helped spread awareness on the importance of systematic savings and assist in the process of opening bank accounts for the villagers.

In the first round, the volunteers went door-to door interacting with every member of the family to understand the concept of savings, or if they have any bank account or even supportive documentation for opening an account. In each of these interactions, the volunteers explained the importance of having a savings bank account and gave a background of currently prevalent government schemes that encourage savings.

Men and women gathered in the community hall and we screened a short Marathi animated film on the importance of saving. This followed a lively discussion with the participants on what they understood and to get a sense of what is level of financial inclusion in the village. There were about 30-40% of villagers who said that they have a bank account. We also had a Bank Manager from Bank of Baroda visiting the village with all the required forms for opening a bank account. A group of volunteers surveyed the village by going to each house to find out how many of them had access to a savings bank account and talking to them about its merits. The volunteers were able to convince a few of the families to open a bank account.

Subsequently, we conducted multiple rounds of visits to the individual homes collecting information on currently existing bank accounts and encouraging opening of new accounts for those who did not have them. The volunteers also helped them with the process for new account openings at a local bank with the help of the visiting Bank Manager.

Impact & Highlights:

  • In the first round of individual interactions, villagers were not very forthcoming to share information regarding their savings and back accounts. However, post the screening of the short film, and a subsequent common interactive session with the villagers (especially the women) there was a marked difference in their attitudes towards the concept of financial literacy.
  • The subsequent rounds of door-to-door interactions were very fruitful and the villagers helped us patiently with their personal details, including sharing of their Aadhar/Ration cards. Further, they also shared details of the existing savings accounts and the issues they were facing in operating them. We noted that only around 30-40% of the households had bank accounts, most of which were dormant.
  • The volunteering team took careful note of all the details and completed account opening forms for nearly all the households which were passed on to the local bank manager for further processing. Since, photocopy facility was not available in the village; volunteers came up with the innovative idea of using technology and taking pictures of the Aadhar/Ration Cards, which we later shared with the bank manager.
  • With the appropriate follow up and closure of formalities by the local bank manager, it is expected that majority of the households in the village will now have at least one bank account as a result of this activity.

Donation drive

In addition to the core activities, we also organized a shoes and clothes donation drive in Mumbai. We used the social networking to mobilize the people to donate lightly used shoes and clothes for children. On our various trips to the village it came to our notice and most of the children in the village do not own shoes. They used to walk barefeet under the hot sun on the concrete and dusty paths. This situation prompted us to collect shoes for them.

The shoe drive was successful and we were able to collect approximately 30 pairs of shoes for young and old children. We also collected several clothing pieces for men and women. These items were distributed among the children. We organized an impromptu cricket match and gave away ‘prizes’ to these children for their performance. It was made sure that all children get their turn and get an item that they could take away. This was a successful drive and we were able to create a lot of smiles and happy feet!


Smart[er] village project is highly scalable, in terms of both bringing in more villages in the Khalapur block under the ambit of this project, as well as extending our activities in the Dharni village. There are many new activities and major extensions of the current initiatives which may potentially be undertaken. As an example, creating a more comprehensive programme on improving the sanitation facilities in the village, along with construction of community toilets in the village. Another example would be having an ongoing mentorship programme for the village children and providing them with guidance for identifying career goals and other issues. Developing a compost pit as well as a biogas plant would also benefit the village women folk. Women use firewood for cooking purpose and with poor ventilation in the homes, are prone to respiratory problems. Providing them with biogas would be an effective solution to this challenging situation. Also, parterning with a vocational skill training organization to develop a skilling programme in the village would be an extremely useful exercise.

We will be identifying further ideas to scale the project in collaboration with our NGO partner and propose ideas in which we at CRISIL could support them.

Volunteers Speak

“It was a great experience to witness how lives can change in Indian villages with such an initiave. It is necessary to resolve basic problems for generating scope of further development. Education being one of the major areas. We taught them drawings to depict smart villages”.

Raffa Moeria, External volunteer (Brazil)

“Amazing experience . This project though challenging , but is equally promising .The idea of smart village seemed very raw to me when I discussed it first time with Parineeta and team, but witnessing all the hard work to execute their plans , sessions,several workshops etc. I can proudly say that  Kudos to the team , this project has immense potential to Change the scene in Dharni for better.”

Srishti Srivastava, Crisil Volunteer                                                                                                                                              

“Dharni, being a tribal village is devoid of most of the basic facilities available in modern day villages. The first day I went there, I saw kids full of energy, creativity, and enthusiasm to learn Basic English and Math. They had no permanent source of income but the thing that had stuck me most was irregularity in water sourcing and availability. The kids would run barefoot to fetch water. Thus to me this project seems to have struck the right chord in terms of affecting lives of people. The RHW set-up, training on sanitation and hygiene will solve real problems. Kudos to the team and hope they scale it up to generate a greater pool of change”

Sunay Jain , Crisil Volunteer.

“ I have made most number of visits as a volunteer and the experience was so much fun. I maninly worked with children trying to engender in them envoronmental conciousness. It was sad that some of kids dint even have shoes and would go running barefoot. However they were all inteligent and cheerful. I sincerely hope and believe this project has touched their lives “

– Amarapali Roy Barman, Crisil Volunteer.

“ This was my first visit in an indian villlage which was not even developed to provide basic needs to its people. I think the intiative to build a water storage, educate the villagers to open bank accounts and iteracting with children about their educarion showed us that there is lot  of work which needs to be done in lakhs of villages like this in India. We need more such intiatives and with the revelant NGO contact guiding and channeling our resources, this can bring a lot of positive change in our society”.

– Radhika Bhukania, Crisil Volunteer