India’s cleanest Village sets the template

 

By Ayush Verma

Published on: Apr 4, 2018

 

If you are still unaware of the cleanest village in India, take out 3 minutes, and read it here. Mawlynnong  is the tiny village in Meghalaya that has effectively been cowned the cleanest village in Asia and effectively India.

While formal awards like the recent  Safaigiri Awards (2017) by the India Today Group have confirmed its success, Mawlynnong  has done much more than win the title of cleanest.

The village with 95 households and a literacy rate of 90% has been setting standards across the board for the rest of the country to follow. Agriculture is the main occupation in the area, but ever since Discover India (travel magazine) declared the village as the cleanest in India in 2005 local tourism has flourished. According to the village headsman, incomes have increased by 60% due to this increased tourism.  A template that could probably be taken from village to district, to city and more when it comes to a country as diverse as India.
This bucolic paradise prides itself on its near-zero litter tolerance rate. Aesthetically pleasing conical Bamboo baskets track the cobbled streets, often fastened to trees and ramparts of houses. As per the decree of the community each and every dweller must participate in cleaning the village. Use of polythene and smoking is banned, with water harvesting initiatives taken up by all the households.

(Bamboo waste baskets are scattered across the village; PC: Tanveer Dalal for BBC)

 

The children are responsible for beautification of the area. All the village kids share this duty, and walk out early in the morning before school to sweep up dry leaves and garbage. The kids are also responsible for emptying the rubbish bins, which are scattered across the village and help segregate the organic waste which are turned into manure from the flammable trash which is driven far away from the village and burned. Thus cleanliness is ingrained early, and deep, into the minds of the villagers as the key to living a good life.

But where did this routine come from? 

According to local natives and guides it likely sprinted from an outbreak of Cholera more than 130 years ago, and cleanliness was encouraged by Christian missionaries to control its spread. The villagers are a part of the Khasi tribe, traditionally a matrilineal society. Perhaps, with women in dominant roles in society, moving to make maintainance of the surroundings and overall environment was easier.

 

 

(PC: Tanveer Dalal for BBC)

“We are Christians from more than 100 years back, and cleaning is learned from our elders,” said housewife Sara Kharrymba while talking to BBC. “We pass on these skills, from me to my children, from them to their children.”

However, now with the increasing tourist influx the village is trying hard to cling on to its tranquillity. Along with a greater income the growing number of tourists also bring with them a burden. Forcing the hand of the village council to look at outside solutions to keep hold of their traditions and maintain their ‘clean image’.
While confirmed data on other social and health indicators, especially the latter is awaited, initial numbers do indicate that when it comes to key health indicators like frequency of diseases  linked to hygiene and overall cleanliness, the village is already reaping some huge benefits.  Something one hopes most visitors will take back and emulate.

By Ayush Verma

Published on: Apr 4, 2018

 

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