Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, which aims to make India free of open defecation by 2019, a group of school children have taken it upon themselves to transform Valpur into a clean and hygienic “smart village”.
When none of the elders seemed keen to build toilets despite the issuance of government grants, students from Class 1 to Class 8 of various schools in the village decided to take matters into their own hands. Their efforts inspired others, and today, everybody from teachers to administrative officials have joined hands to make the campaign a success.
Valpur, with a population of 2,000, has nine educational institutions – one higher secondary, two middle and six primary schools.
Valpur Girls Middle School in-charge Khuman Singh Mandloi, who is leading the campaign, told HT: “We wanted to transform our place into a smart village. But we realised that complete cleanliness and hygiene was the first step towards achieving our goal.”
The task wasn’t easy, at least at the outset. “Given the rural outlook and low literacy rate, we faced a few challenges in the beginning. But everything fell into place once villagers understood the importance of our project,” Mandloi said.
The initial aim of the mission was to educate future generations of the village on the importance of good hygiene. “Children are the future of this village, and we wanted to teach them good habits and cleanliness. What’s more, they are capable of making the elders in their families follow their example too,” the school in-charge said.
The campaign will be kept alive through the year, said village sarpanch Hajari Bai. Next on the cards is an afforestation drive, to be taken up around the village.
“We are carrying out this mission keeping the forthcoming Bhagoriya (a tribal festival held every March) in mind. Thousands of foreigners visit Valpur on this occasion, and we plan to showcase a different image of our village next year,” Bai said.
According to the sarpanch, the cleanliness campaign really took off when the villagers began chipping in. “They didn’t stop at just participating. Each family in the village agreed to contribute Rs 45 every month to pay over 20 kachara mitras (garbage lifters) their wages. We are also looking at ways to reduce plastic waste in the village.”
District collector Sanjay Verma, who was all praise for the village’s industrious children, said they have set an example for others in Alirajpur. “We can learn lots of things from school kids... they are good teachers. Here at Valpur, children are doing an exemplary job.
Their work will motivate others to follow in their footsteps,” Verma added.