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Assam's cleanest village becomes model for northeastern India

The Christian tribal community 17 years ago decided to fine anyone creating a mess and have now won a prize

Assam's cleanest village becomes model for northeastern India

John Momin, head of Rangchapara village, in front of the village church. The village has been recognized by the state for being the cleanest in Assam. ( photo) 

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

March 21, 2017

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A resolution passed 17 years ago in a tribal Christian village in the northeastern state of Assam has helped it become an example of cleanliness.

The state Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently awarded 500,000 rupees (US$7,650) to Rangchapara village in Goalpara district recognizing it as the cleanest in the state, and urging other villages to emulate its example.

The state recognized our village as free from open defecation, alcohol, tobacco, crime and social conflicts, said John Momin, the village head.

The change began in 2000 when a 10-member committee of elders in the Baptist village resolved that no one in the village could defecate in the open and everyone had to keep their area clean.

They also decided to build toilets and impose a fine of 5,000 rupees on people abusing drugs, alcohol, tobacco and defecating in the open.


Some people of Rangchapara village stand in front of a newly-built toilet. Open defecation is a big problem in India but this village has eradicated it. ( photo)


The district's highest government official, Collector J.V.N. Subramanyam, told that the government funded some permanent toilets in the village under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Campaign) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in 2014.

"Apart from government help, community assets like the church, schools and playgrounds have been maintained very neatly by the community," Subramanyam said.

Reports show that some 70 percent of India's 1.2 billion people live in villages and at least half of the rural population defecates in the open, causing major health and sanitation problems.

Modi's clean India campaign aims to build some 120 million toilets in rural India by 2019 to end the practice.

Subramanyam said the state government has already built some 560,000 toilets in Assam and plans to end open defecation across the state by October.

It is already a reality for the 88 families in Rangchapara who all belong to the Baptist Church. "Nobody to date has broken the rules," Momin said.

"People are healthy and have stronger immunity due to the hygienic conditions around," he added.

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