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Residents of ‘cleanest village’ invite Modi

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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.

(IANS)

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.