Vanghmun: While the government is campaigning for a ‘Swachh Bharat’, residents of the 100-year-old Vanghmun in Jampui Hills of Tripura’s North Tripura district are taking it a step further by taking upon on themselves to keep their village absolutely clean.
The village is situated at an altitude of 800 mt and has a population of 1,512 in about 253 families. Interesting, locals — as young as eight years and as old as 80 years — come together every Saturday and Sunday to voluntarily clean the entire village.
Lauding their efforts in maintaining cleanliness round the clock, the state government also recognised Vanghmun as ‘open defecation-free’ on September 20 last year.
Laluala Pachuau, a primary section teacher of Vanghmun Higher Secondary School, said, “To keep the school clean, the students and teachers sweep the school before the classes begin.”
“Every week, the school is cleaned about two to three times. We have 39 students and eight teachers in the primary section, who actively participate in the cleaning drives,” Laluala said.
Vanghmun was established with 20 to 25 families on February 5, 1919 at the behest of Raja Bahadur Dokhuma Sailo, a philanthropist Mizo chief. Sailo was conferred the title (Raja Bhadur) by the then Maharaja of Tripura Birendra Kishore Manikya on October 24, 1922 due to his efficient rule over his subjects and good relations with the Maharaja himself,” said JD Mawai, a 61-year-old resident of the village.
A church was also established in the village the same year. A Baptist missionary then came to the place from New Zealand and stayed for seven years.
“All our forefathers have gone without seeing the Prime Minister of India and in our time we would be really happy if the Prime Minister was kind enough to visit the place even once,” Mawai added.
Members of the Young Mizo Association (YMA), a voluntary organisation, started cleaning the village themselves taking up a goal to make it the cleanest village in India.
“We are celebrating the centenary of the village this year. We are contributing from our end to keep the village neat and clean. We are also requesting the government to come and identify a specific dumping ground so that we can dump all our waste there,” Lalnunsanga, a member of the YMA, said.
The people of the village are also taking up the concept of homestays in Vanghmun village.
“We have met with Kumar Alok, principal secretary, government of Tripura, and discussions were made to boost tourism here in the state,” Lalnunsanga added.
“The village received the ‘open defecation-free’ certificate last year. But a certificate like the cleanest village of the state is yet to be received from the government,” said Lalnunsanga.
Locals now say that the main issue which they face in the village is the scarcity of water due to the absence of any reservoir. “We are collecting water from the rooftops of every household and it is the only source of water. Once the government arranges that, the development would happen faster,” he added.
Lalenpuia Ratte (31) said, “We, the Young Mizo Association members, participate in the cleanliness drive and urge the people of the village and the school to work together and help us to keep the village neat and clean. Youths are educated and if they have the dedication to develop the community, whether it is in the cleanliness or raising some social practices, it can be done by them if they have unity and solidarity.”
The village is not only known for its cleanliness but has the least crime record with almost negligible cases being registered with the police station in the hill. From November 25, the villagers will ban all kind of plastics use. All the women have started preparing paper bags which will be used instead of plastics.
The villagers also appeal all the communities in the Northeastern states to come together and participate in the mission of keeping their surroundings clean.
Sajal Debnath, the former Block Development Officer (BDO) of Vanghmun and now serving as a deputy collector and magistrate in Teliamura of Khowai district, said, “We know that Mawlynnong of Shillong as the ‘cleanest village of Asia’. Now, the villagers of Vanghmun has set a goal of becoming the cleanest village of India.”
“I tried to get recognition for Vanghmun for its cleanliness. After discussion with higher authority, we were told that at first, we need to get publicity. If no other village challenges, then Vanghmun may get recognition as the cleanest village of India,” Debnath added.
The village has got the open defecation-free certificate on January 2019, fulfilling all Swacha Bharat Mission criteria. Vanghmun was also selected for the implementation of solid and liquid waste management. The Jampui block also organises Swaccha House Award, Swaccha School Award, etc.,” Debnath added.
While R Kishore, block development officer (BDO) of Vanghmun village, said he had never come across such a beautiful village in the state. However, he said that villagers are making efforts to maintain the cleanliness and the government is also supporting them in the awareness camps for the villagers.