Boni (Anandapuram): The success story of Boni village in Anandapuram mandal, around 50 km away from the Port City, is something to take inspiration from. Till January this year, the village had nothing special, but in the course of just three months, Boni transformed itself into a smart village with 100% implementation of Swachh Bharat. It is the only village in coastal AP to have toilets in every household, clean streets and lanes, clear drains, dustbins, greenery, 24/7 water supply, electricity and 100% literacy. Here, the villagers have adopted the slogan ‘I am the change’.
With a population of around 1,600 people in 304 houses, Boni was recently given the Smart Village Award and Ugadi Puraskar. The man making this transformation possible with the help of the villagers is Boni sarpanch S Satyavaraprasad Rao, who did not wait for the government to sanction funds and sold his own land to gather money for the makeover. Quite aptly, he got the Best Sarpanch Award from the government. Rao has also been made the brand ambassador to promote Swachh Bharat in Paderu.
Speaking about what motivated him, Rao said, “A few months ago, I had attended a programme in Andhra University where all the sarpanches spoke about keeping their villages clean. Examples were given of the Indian villages that received the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. It is then that I decided to make my village an example of cleanliness. The first step towards this was stopping open defecation by constructing toilets in every household. We found that out of 304 houses, 112 of them did not have toilets and of these, 28 houses did not even have the space to build toilets. So, some of the bigger households gave space to build toilets and we also constructed a few along the roads. Within 45 days, we finished building all the required toilets at a cost of around Rs 4.5 lakh that we gathered by selling my land. Now, I’m awaiting reimbursement from the government, who is supposed to give Rs 15,000 for each constructed toilet.”
“Announcements were made on the loudspeaker continuously from 3 am against open defecation and every villager was asked to use the constructed toilets. Every household was also given a dustbin so as not to litter garbage outside. Dustbins were also put up along the roads. It worked and led to a change in the mindset of the residents who became conscious about keeping their village clean,” quipped Shiv Shankar, one of the villagers.
As for the green drive through planting saplings in big cement pots, the idea came to the sarpanch from the beautification drive that was taken up during the International Fleet Review (IFR) in Vizag. Potted plants have been placed at the entrance to the village as well as on either side of each street. “To generate ownership of the streets among the residents, each street has been named after freedom fighters and non-political personalities and the residents of a particular street are asked to maintain the cleanliness of the street. The image of a closed fist marks the entry to the village and at some streets too. It symbolises the unity among the villagers,” said Rao, whose uncle Boni Suryanarayana too had been a sarpanch for 25 years.
What’s more, this village is blessed with 24 hours of water supply from the Gosthani Reservoir under Bhagiratha Water Scheme and supplies drinking water to 39 other villages in the vicinity. There’s also no shortfall in electricity supply. “Our health centre is well-equipped and caters to three villages. We also have a kalyanamandapam, a high school, elementary school and Anganwadi centre. Every village individual is literate with every household having a degree holder. Since the villagers do not have pattas (land recognition rights), the government is compensating them with water and electricity and in recognition of our efforts at cleanliness, has bestowed awards on us in March and April,” the sarpanch said.
However, the villagers rued that there is hardly any income for the panchayat. “From house tax collection, we get around Rs 63,000 per annum. For overall maintenance of the village, we spend Rs 15,000 per month,” said S Jeevanlatha, panchayat secretary.
In fact, inspired by Mahesh Babu’s recent movie ‘Srimantudu’, a 30-member group — Boni Gramam Srimantudu — has been set up to maintain the toilets and cleanliness in the village. The group consists of earning villagers, who would contribute Rs 1,000 per year towards maintenance. Even though no collector or politician visits their village, the sarpanch and villagers have acknowledged government officials like engineer Surya Prakash from the rural water works department and mandal development officer Sudha Rani for supporting them throughout their initiative.