India Today - - SAFAIGIRI - —Kaushik Deka

While the coun­try strug­gles with the men­ace of open defe­ca­tion, this bor­der vil­lage in Megha­laya leads the way. The 95 houses in this vil­lage have had func­tional toi­lets since 2007. Wicker bas­kets line the cob­bled paths at in­ter­vals, of­ten tied to trees or ram­parts of houses draped in bougainvil­lea and or­chids. Young men and women pe­ri­od­i­cally sweep the streets. Plas­tic bags and smok­ing are pro­hib­ited. Large sign­boards ask vis­i­tors not to leave plas­tic around.

Mawlyn­nong’s ob­ses­sion with hy­giene be­gan over a cen­tury ago, in 1887, when Chris­tian mis­sion­ar­ies first set foot here. Though just 90 km from cap­i­tal Shil­long, the vil­lage was cut off from the rest of the world and had been strug­gling with reg­u­lar plague out­breaks. The mis­sion­ar­ies of­fered a sim­ple so­lu­tion—clean­li­ness. Since then, the vil­lage has prac­tised this with a mis­sion­ary zeal. “It’s ev­ery­one’s habit—since child­hood we have been taught at home, in schools and in the church to main­tain clean­li­ness to re­main healthy,” says head­man Thom­lin Khongth­ohrem.

Since 2003, when a pucca road con­nected the vil­lage to the rest of the world, there has been a steady in­crease in tourists. “I hope ev­ery­one in In­dia learns that if we nur­ture clean­li­ness as a habit, the gov­ern­ment won’t need to spend crores for Swach­hata mis­sions,” says Grace Mary Kharpuri, a mem­ber of the district coun­cil.


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