There is one big reason why I like the regional language media – they cover both politics and governance with equal importance. Below is the banner story in the center-spread of the largest circulated Telugu newspaper – Eenadu, on January 11th. This is a story that needs to be told outside of the state too, and therefore am taking the liberty to vaguely translate what’s been reported, and show to you how a beautiful combination of real governance, co-operative federalism, and citizen participation looks like.
The headline: “Swachh Bharat changes the destiny of this village”
This story is about a village – Muralinagar. It is located in Kandukuru mandal of Rangareddy district in Telangana (about 45 kms from Hyderabad). Just six months ago, only 61 houses had individual toilets. Sale of arrack was rampant and there were often many conflicts within the villagers because of this. Today – there is a sea change in the village. And this has been achieved through the “Swachh Bharat, Swachh Telangana” program.
The TRS government in Telangana has introduced a program called Palle Pragati (Progress of the Village). As a pilot initiative, it has chosen 1 village for district. Muralinagar was the lucky village chosen from Rangareddy district. A survey conducted by a private organization has revealed that nearly 60% of the villagers often fall sick, and one of the biggest reasons is the lack of hygiene – both at a personal level and at a village level.
The first step towards fixing this, was to sanction Rs. 23 lakh rupees under the Swachh Bharat program and also finish construction of 223 individual toilets in the village. A toilet was constructed at the Anganwadi center too.
To fight the menace of garbage lying around on the streets and outside of the houses, the state government has provided each house with two dustbins – each of a different color – one for dry waste and one for wet waste. And workers of the gram panchayat comes and pick up the waste on a daily basis.
Where does this waste then go to? Using funds from MNREGA, villagers have dug a dumping yard outside the village.
There are about 150 students in the government schools in the village. They have been provided with a bar of soap that they carry around in their bag! And they use it each time they go to the toilet; each time after a meal; each time after they play.
Another big problem of the village was the sale of arrack and people getting into drunken brawls. People from at least 5 adjoining villages used to come to Muralinagar to purchase arrack. Earlier, the government tried to take strict measures by demolishing these shops, but there was little avail. Officials changed tack and went to each home, regularly, to explain the ill-effects. At first, there was resistance, but slowly people understood. Today, all those people who wasted time and money, work in MNREGA works and also in the agricultural fields and most importantly lead a happy life with families.
The villages in Telugu states are encouraged to have societies called as “Podhupu Sangham” – Podhupu means “to save”. These societies are basically small entrepreneur units that employ women, and generate both employment and revenue. In 2004, Muralinagar village had 18 such societies. Due to bad management, all of them were shut down by 2007. These have now been revived, and the village currently has 19 societies that do transactions worth Rs. 80 lakhs (report doesn’t mention if this per month or year)! Banks have released loans up to Rs. 5 lakhs per society.
Seeing all this, Hindustan Aeronautical Limited has come forward to spend about Rs. 70 lakh towards further modernization of the village!
I mentioned about the beautiful combination of good governance, co-operative federalism, and citizen participation at the beginning. BJP is one of the opposition party to the ruling TRS in Telangana – yet the TRS government has whole heartedly accepted the Swachh Bharat program. In fact, the slogan here is “Swachh Bharat, Swachh Telangana”.
The above program succeeded because of schemes monitored and funds released by both state and central governments, without undue delays or red tape – this is what good governance is all about. And most importantly, the program was a success because the citizens of Muralinagar village rose to the occasion. They took up the cudgels to better their own lives; their own houses; their own streets and their own village.
In a news cycle dominated by the rants of a Chief Minister and perpetual outrage at many irrelevant things, this news comes as a whiff of fresh air. Make no mistake – this story is not unique. There are thousands of Muralinagars that are prospering like this. It’s only a matter of time before we know about them too. Just step out of the outrage mode!