With Environment Day ahead, here is an article focusing on individual and community action that leads to large scale impact on the planet. A young Sarpanch of Rajpur Gram Panchayat in Uttar Pradesh has helped make a change by turning her village plastic free with the help of the villagers.
Priyanka Tiwari, a Rajasthan-born and Delhi-bred, shifted to the village after getting married in 2019. Her wasn’t impressed by the surroundings as there was lack of a proper management system and functionalities. Improper waste management, damaged drains, and a lack of crematoriums were some of the issues in the village that made it difficult to live in.
Being a mass communication graduate, Priyanka was a socially conscious individual. She felt responsible and the urge to bring sustainable development in the entire area for a better living.
Priyanka often discussed the matter with her in-laws, and got immense support from them. Her husband- a business man, her father-in-law- a professor and mother-in-law- a teacher, always agreed and supported her decision.
During the 2021 Panchayat election, Priyanka’s father-in-law felt that it would be a good opportunity for the young environmentalist to show her passion and skills. “If you want to bring about a change in this place, this is a golden chance,” he said to Priyanka. Following his teachings the 29-year-old contested in the village election and won the Sarpanch position.
The very next day after Priyanka took her oath as a Sarpanch, plastic was banned in Rajpur panchayat. In her speech she said, “Ceasing plastic usage can’t be done in a day. I was sure that it would be a long process.”
Cloth bags were distributed to shopkeepers, roadside vendors, and houses in the village by the panchayat, as the first step. Secondly, they imposed a fine of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 for the first-timers and the second-timers respectively if they used plastic bags. However, if they continue to break the rules then the licence of that shop would be cancelled.
At the same time, awareness classes on the damage caused by plastic were also conducted in the village and every individual was asked to join. Due to this initiative of her, around 30-35 per cent of plastic use was reduced.
Children as well contribute to plastic waste in the form of snack packets and chocolate wrappers. They too were encouraged to to collect it and earn Rs 2 per kg. Apart from that, awareness classes were held in schools and colleges. Slowly, the movement helped the village go almost 70-75 per cent plastic-less.
Reportedly, Priyanka has said that her goal is to increase the percentage to around 95 percent, in the upcoming years. She hopes that this awareness programmes continues to inspire both elders and children even after her tenure as the sarpanch is over.
More than 75-80 percent of the total population of Rajpur gram panchayat consists of people belonging to scheduled castes/ tribes. And not many of them are educated, therefore, direct awareness classes is an easy way to help coach them.
Besides reducing plastic waste, Priyanka has also set up a library in the panchayat. Another major issue in the village was the lack of proper crematoriums, the young enthusiast also made sure to build a crematorium in the village. “Its construction is almost over and will be working within a month,” the Sarpanch said.
Priyanlka has taken significant steps to change the face of a panchayat within just a year of being in the position. Her panchayat has received Rs 9 lakh recently as part of the Chief Minister’s Award, and she is planning to set up a reverse osmosis water plant using the amount.