Belona, which till recently was a nondescript village in Barpeta district of Assam, and is about 15 kms from here, has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the villagers’ collective effort in making their surroundings clean and green, besides plastic-free.

The villagers, especially the womenfolk, clean their village twice a week. Further, they sweep the road connecting the village twice a day. They have also banned use of plastic. If someone dares to violate the rule, he or she is imposed a fine of Rs 501. Again, if anyone is found drinking liquor, then he/she has to cough up a stiff fine of Rs 1,001 to the villagers.

Belona, it may be mentioned, catapulted into the limelight when Prime Minister Narendra Modi twitted on the popular social media and praised their collective effort to keep their surroundings clean and green. Soon after the report of the Prime Minister’s twitter reached the villagers through brand ambassador of the Forest Department Ananda Khataniar, the villagers erupted in joy.

Jitumoni Roy, an enthusiastic youth and president of leading NGO Dristi said: “We are at a loss of words on how best to express our happiness for the recognition accorded to our hard work to reach our goal of Swachhata. Now we will work with double enthusiasm.” He said that they have in the meantime been encouraging the surrounding villagers to keep their premises clean and pollution-free.

For the record, Belona is situated in between Bhabanipur and Sarukshetri LAC and falls under Patacharkuchi LAC, just five kms from the headquarter town of Bajali sub-division, around two kms from the national highway towards the east side near the railway flyover at Pathsala.

The village comprises of 350 families with around 2,500 people, which has set a rare example in swachhata. It is almost unbelievable that most of the villagers earn their livelihood working as daily wage labourers, while 10 percent earn their livelihood by cultivation and hardly five percent people of the village are service holders.

The village comprises of nine subas, eight naamghars and one mosque. Though the people of Belona live simple lives, but they believe in high thinking and are preservers of traditional culture.

The villagers use steel tumblers in lieu of plastic glasses. Nearly 5,000 saplings with proper protection have been planted in the village under the guidance of Ananda Khataniar, Roy said. He also informed that Dristi NGO started work in the village since 2014. Today, there is not a single-family left in the village sans sanitation.

In the meantime, the Barpeta district administration rewarded the villagers as ‘neat and clean, green village’ and provided them a cash reward of Rs one lakh. The villagers purchased dustbins and distributed them among the 350 families of the village. They have also made waste disposal and scientific dumping a habit. Presently, the village has 20 street lights provided by mygov.assam with assistance from the ONGC.

Further, the women of the village have started making paper bags for grocery shops and distributed them in nearby Pathsala. NGOs like Natun Belona Yuba Sangha, Abhilashi Mahila Samiti, Maa Durga, Pubali etc. are also extending a helping hand in their glorious journey of earning the distinction of becoming the first clean and green village in the state.

Not for nothing has the PM retwitted “… very good! Cleanliness powered by community initiative is always wonderful. Congratulations to everyone who has worked on this swachhata effort…”
Now the villagers are planning to open a stall in the village to sell ethnic items such as kolakhar, handloom, paper bags and other eatables.

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