Shillong: Khasi tribesmen of Meghalaya's Mawlynnong village, who call it "God's own garden", have invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit their village after he acknowledged the hamlet as "the cleanest village in Meghalaya".
"The inhabitants of Mawlynnong were so excited when they came to know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged our village as cleanest village in Meghalaya and lauded our work to keep our village clean in his monthly radio talk - Mann ki Baat - on Sunday," Mawlynnong village headman Thomlin Khongthohrem told IANS on the phone.
"His acknowledgment would further motivate us to maintain the cleanliness of the village, and would also encourage other villages in India to keep their village clean. We are also happy that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched Swachh Bharat mission as cleanliness is very important in human life," he said.
Mawlynnong, which means "a cluster of stones" in the local Khasi dialect, is located on the southern slopes of East Khasi Hills, and is also cited as "Asia's cleanest village". It is about 90 km from Meghalaya capital Shillong and four km from the Bangladesh border.
Khongthohrem said that the villagers also felt that the village should invite Modi to step into Mawlynnong for first-hand knowledge on how cleanliness is maintained in the village.
"A majority of the villagers felt that an invitation should be extended to the prime minister to visit Mawlynnong and to further motivate us and other villages across India on the need to maintain cleanliness and how to keep their surroundings clean and green," he said.
In his "Maan Ki Baat" programme broadcast through All India Radio on Sunday, Modi mentioned Mawlynnong and appreciated the people of the state and their attitude towards cleanliness.
"Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmuganathan wrote to me and mentioned Mawlynnong village. This village has been devoted to cleanliness since several years, he said in his letter. He said this village was awarded the cleanest village in Asia a few years ago," Modi said in the Mann ki Baat programme.
"I was happy to know that in our country there is such a village in the northeast, in Meghalaya, which is passionately carrying forward the mission of cleanliness for years. All this infuses confidence in us that our country will surely be clean through the efforts of the countrymen," the prime minister added.
Echoing her village chief, resident Hosanna Mawroh felt that the prime minister should ask his team to come visiting and learn from them about cleanliness.
"It is not only about promotion of tourism alone, but we the people of Mawlynnong also want to educate and encourage other people visiting our village from other states about the importance of cleanliness, preservation and protection of the fragile ecology," she said.
Former Meghalaya home minister Robert. G. Lyngdoh, who is now the chairman of the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum, said that Modi's acknowledgement would surely be a big boost for the village.
"This should motivate the Meghalaya government and the inhabitants of Mawlynnong to further improve their litter, garbage and solid waste management, and other villages in Meghalaya should also be motivated to get the same recognition," Lyngdoh said.
He also felt that the government should initiate other green initiatives like water management and alternative sources of energy.
Mawlynnong presents itself as a pretty queen amongst a cluster of rural areas located on a critical micro-watershed of the Wah Khuri (Khuri river). Unlike other tribal villages, where one is greeted with barking dogs and strange looks, Mawlynnong warmly receives tourists with open arms. The villagers are polite and friendly.
Most of the houses are built with traditional material like stone, tin, bamboo and wood. There are a few cemented houses too. Each house is decorated with exotic and ornamental plants, while the courtyards are covered with a green carpet of grass.
The footpaths and lanes within the village have been carefully built with stones and boulders. In each walkway, there are cone-shaped bamboo dustbins. Nobody is allowed to litter plastic or any waste material on the footpaths or in the village premises.
It looks so clean that one would hesitate to throw anything on the ground - and even if there is some litter, it would be cleaned up in no time.
Mawlynnong village was discovered by missionaries of the Anglican church who came in contact with the village to spread the gospel way back in 1902. They later built a church there with the help of the highly-skilled local masons.
The natural beauty and simplicity of the local folk attracted foreign tourists well before the domestic and city visitors began to flow in. The foreigners marvelled at the simple, self-sustained village with its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. The villagers too were inspired by the adulation of the visitors. They realised that if they could conserve the forest and biodiversity of the area, it could fetch them not only praise but also income from the tourist inflow.
The Dorbar Shnong (village council) makes sure the tourists are comfortable and safe there. There is a tourism management committee in the village that supervises the itinerary of the tourists and their comfort that includes providing tourist guides, accommodation and food.