A race for the top prize, a 1 km concrete road, saw more than two lakh people in an eastern Assam Assembly constituency scrubbing, sweeping, raking, washing and wiping for about a fortnight since February 17.
Villages in eastern Assam generally maintain a level of cleanliness but there were certain habits that Mrinal Saikia, Khumtai constituency’s BJP legislator, wanted the residents to kick. These included keeping the facades of the houses or public structures clean and the backyard littered.
So, he decided to organise an inter-village and inter-tea garden competition for a clean Khumtai.
The constituency, in Golaghat district, is about 260 km east of Guwahati.
“The constituency has a total of 148 villages and 24 tea estates. I planned the contest, perhaps the first of its kind in India involving an entire constituency, to make the people value cleanliness,” Mr. Saikia told The Hindu on Monday.
“Some of these villages were already clean barring a few spots here and there. We hope the contest encouraged the other villages to do better,” he said.
The contest was organised from February 17 to March 6 with the villages given 12 days to clean up to be in the reckoning for the top prize – a 1 km concrete road from the local MLA fund. Four other prizes were announced for the villages ranging from development schemes worth ₹10 lakh to ₹3 lakh.
The prizes announced for the tea estate were development schemes worth ₹5 lakh, ₹3 lakh and ₹2 lakh.
Five jury groups comprising civil servants, academicians, environmentalists, and journalists assessed these villages and narrowed down the list to a total of 121 villages and tea estates.
“The villages were judged on several parameters such as a clean roadside, garbage management, and proper disposal or no use of plastic. We checked the toilets, backyards of houses, namghars (neighbourhood community prayer hall), markets, schools and other public places too,” Dinesh Gogoi, a retired physics teacher of Golaghat’s D.R. College said.
“Some of the jurists also advised the villagers to use community halls and namghars for public awareness and discuss the kind of locally-relevant projects they would like their representative and the government to pursue,” he said.
All the jury groups handed over their assessment reports in sealed envelopes to the MLA by Sunday night. “Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will open these envelopes and announce the winners tentatively between March 10 and 15,” Mr Saikia said.
The contest has had an impact in areas beyond Khumtai in the Golaghat district. The municipal body of Golaghat town announced a similar contest among its 13 wards.