I made a one day visit to Ralegaon Siddhi on the 1st October 2008. This is a model village(Adharsha Gaon), very popular for the water shed management and the self sufficiency models that were implemented for the village welfare. Anna Hazare lives here in a small temple.
I will just provide answer to a few question which I had when I decided to make this trip and did not find enough resources on the web to answer them.
The questions are
How do I reach this place by bus from Pune?, How long does it take?.
There are few direct bus from Shivaji Terminus in Pune to Ralegaon Siddhi. This service is very infrequent and seems to be available only for a few times in a day. Alternatively the option is to take a bus to Sirur. This small town is about 60kms from Pune and most buses to Ahmed Nagar passes through Shirur. The state road transport buses are decent, but not very comfortable. The ticket costs 47Rs. It takes about one and half to two hours to reach Sirur from ST bus terminus Pune. Enroute is this famous Ashta Vinayak temple town called Ranjan Gaon and it is easy to make a stop over if one is interested. The frequency of services is plenty, almost every 5 minutes you have a bus going to Shirur.
After you reach Sirur, one needs to take a bus to Parner and Ralegaon Siddhi(people understand if you say Anna Hazare gaon also)is on the way to Parner. This travel takes about 20-30 minutes. There are 6 seater tempo services also on this route, but the frequency might be a issue. Buses are available once every half an hour. The ticket cost 10Rs.
How do I go around looking for things in the village and will there be some guided trips explaining things?
National water shed management training institutes organizes guided trips. This center is about half a kilometer from the place where you get down from the bus. This trip is typically offered for groups and people who have their own vehicle. If you dont have a vehicle, which was the case in my situation they do not provide any transport to visit those water sheds which are located at distances of about 2-3kms within the village.
If you are a group and call them on phone(02488-240401) and have your own vehicle, this might be the best option to get to understand their watershed managment initiatives.They also provide lunch for the visitors at a reasonable price. My personal experinece was that they were not so enthusiastic or forthcoming to showcase and explore options to make this trip available for individual visitors interested.
In my case as this trip was not possible, I visited the media center, which is a photo exhibition explaining and showcasing the village activities towards developement and spent some time there. Made some conversations with the locals(not knowing Marathi and not very conversant with farming terms in Hindi was a handicap to understand quite a few things they were talking to me) at a chai hop and told them my interest to visit those water shed places and lack of vehicle from the training center.
The locals were forthcoming and very glad to offer to take me around in their motorbike(I offered that I could come in bicycle too) and one of them took me around the village. He explained me about their farming practices, watershed managment initatives(Technically it was hard to get the efficiency of this practice and how does one manage such a thing in a topologically different kind of village, how do they manage to avoid mosquito breeding in those waters that get stagnated in different places was difficult to understand and a few other assorted queries, but there must be plenty of resources in the web to understand them). It was also impressive to know that a villager typically makes about
25 to 30 thousands per annum per acre through farming. I know that in cauvery delta in tamilnadu most farmers hardly make about 10,000. I was glad that I made this trip with a local(He works for a village bank, which lends through a co-operative kind of network(not sure if it is a micro finance initiative, but the high interest rate of 15% that he mentioned made me think that it i probbaly that sort of a model) managed by Anna Hazare, who was really showing a lot of pride in showcasing the success of his village and demonstrated a keennes to explain to a outsider. The staff at the training institutes did not give me the impression that they would make this kind of a feeling to their vistors and were doing like more like a ritual.
Anna Hazare was not in the village when I visited. But I visited the temple where he stays. On the whole it was a valuable experience.