During an official visit, I had the opportunity to visit Indore in Madhya Pradesh. This fast-developing city of central India has a rich history associated with it. But this time, what I got to see in Indore appeared to be history in the making. Trust me, this had nothing to do with memorials, statues, or museums. It had to do with cleanliness.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of the Government of India is steadily becoming a mass movement today. It is not just confined to big cities and the urban elite of India. What I saw in a village near Indore was a clear indication that village folk have not only understood the importance of cleanliness, but also made sincere efforts to bring about behavioural changes among people for cleanliness.
Morod village is around 15 km away from the historic city of Indore. This unheard of and unglamorous village should be celebrated for the efforts that the children here have made for the Swachh Bharat cause. Not unlike many villages in India, Morod was also facing the problem of open defecation. Despite having toilets in their homes, people would prefer to go outside to the field to defecate. Open defecation had become a habit rather than a compulsion, due to the previous lack of toilets. This not only affected cleanliness around the village, but had also given rise to many health problems.
Ms. Sangeeta Bilonia, the village Sarpanch, took the lead in eliminating this problem by changing the habits of the people, and decided to motivate children in this village to bring about this change. Under her leadership, the village children formed small teams, which they informally named “Vanar Sena”. This Vanar Sena of kids would wake up at four in the morning every day and go around the village in small teams. Each would hold a whistle in their hand and they would blow the whistle whenever they would find someone defecating in the open. Much to the embarrassment of that person, the kids would continue to blow the whistle around that person until he would leave. These motivated the kids of the “Vanar Sena” to continue their whistling act every morning for a few months. It may sound very funny to many of us, but it left such a profound impact that today no one in that village defecates in the open.
Today, Morod has entered the history books as India’s first open defecation free (ODF) village. These children and their Vanar Sena act have inspired many villages not only around Indore but also all over Madhya Pradesh to use this model to bring about behavioral changes among people. Visiting this village and interacting with the sarpanch, the people, and of course the kids who did it, was truly inspiring for me. It made me believe that Swachh Bharat is gradually becoming a mass movement, which is not just confined to the Ganga Ghats or Railway stations. I am sure India will soon witness many more examples like Morod, and we can make our country clean and healthy.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)