Having already earned the distinction of being free from open defecation, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, this tiny village in Assam’s Goalpara district now aims to go cashless. Adjudged the state’s cleanest village, Rangchapara has also not witnessed any incident of crime in the past at least 17 years.
It has now taken a pledge to be plastic-free from next month and plans to become the first village in the country to go cashless, says village head Roberth John Momin. The ‘clean initiative’ here started much before the NDA government initiated its ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission.
“It was in 1999 when the villagers began talking about cleanliness and in 2000 we formed a 10-member committee headed by me,” says Momin. “The committee took four resolutions – to be a peaceful and united village, to be a clean village, every household should have toilets and availability of clean drinking water for all,” he says.
Since the formation of the committee, there has not been any case of open defection, violence or anyone consuming drugs, alcohol or smoking in the village which has 88 households and a population of 475, all Christians. “We announced a fine of Rs 5,001 for anyone who violates our resolutions, but the best part is that the fine was never imposed, as everyone was following the rules,” says Momin.
Rangchapara was declared the cleanest village in Assam for 2016-17 by the public health engineering department earlier this month and rewarded with a sum of Rs 5 lakh rupees by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
The village was selected by Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development, a third party which examined every village in the state on criteria like attempts to become open defecation free, presence of pucca toilets and their conditions and attempts to promote awareness on cleanliness.
According to Goalpara Deputy Commissioner J V N Subramanyam, the Swachh Bharat Mission was a blessing. “With the help of the mission in 2014 and efforts of public health engineering department, the villagers began to have pucca toilets,” he says.
“The villagers had no idea that they can be the cleanest in the district, leave alone the cleanest in the state,” says Abdul Mozid, Senior Block Development Officer of Balijana. “The village has never seen any conflict; people here live peacefully and unitedly,” says Mozid.
There is also proper waste management. “You can find a dustbin after a short distance and people dispose of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste accordingly,” he says. The village has two schools – one primary and the other middle. The people are neither very rich nor are highly educated.
However, the villagers rue about the condition of roads. The muddy road which connects the village to the district is also not in a very good shape and even the 108 ambulance refuses to ply in the village, they say. “We have been demanding for funds since 2014, but no money has been granted. It is a very serious problem,” says Ratna Nath, panchayat president of Balijana Block.
However, the steps taken to be a clean village have not only helped the villagers get an award but there has also been a reduction in the number of children falling ill. “People are now connecting health with cleanliness, which has also helped in reducing the number of diarrhea cases to half. The village is a perfect example of what people and government together can do,” Subramanyam says.
“The village is now a brand and is helping in bringing changes in the nearby villages. People are following its path not only to be clean, but healthy as well,” he says. The villagers are predominantly farmers with only seven of them having government jobs. Most of the houses are thatched, but with the help of Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), now known as Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana (PMGAY), villagers are beginning to have a house made of bricks.