Temsutula Imsong: India’s Beti from Nagaland, Who Cleaned the Ganga Ghats of Kashi
The maxim ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ is well corroborated by the cleanliness drive, the ‘Swacch Bharat’ initiative of Temsutula Imsong. She hails from Nagaland. Kashi – Benares is her second home. Her objective behind her settlement in the holy place of Kashi is cleaning the ghats of the Ganga. Kashi is her divine calling!
Temsutula Imsong needed volunteers to clean the ghats the big way. She along with few of her friends founded Sakaar, an NGO. And the cleanliness drive started the big way. More people joined them. The clean ghats of Kashi that you witness today are all a result of the efforts of Temsutula and her team.
In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted about her and her team’s effort. He spoke about her at his address in Toronto. She is an international name to reckon with in the cleanliness drive.
When she cleans, she doesn’t consider what comes her way. Just few years ago, the steps at the ghats of the Ganga at Benares were dotted with human excreta. Temsutula Imsong herself took the lead in cleaning it. Her team joined her. Today people can sit at the steps and watch the Ganga flow by.
Recalling her experience in cleaning the ghats of the Ganga in Kashi, Temsutula Imsong says, “It took us two full days to remove those layers of human excreta, which had been there for years. Even after washing ourselves several times, we felt we smelt of human excreta. It was so disgusting that we could not eat food for days! But the satisfaction of seeing the clean ghat compensated for all this.”
Here is an excerpt of an interview of Temsutula Imsong taken by Manoshi Sinha, editor of My India My Glory e-magazine. Manoshi met her at the Indic Thoughts Festival, a celebration of India’s rich Indic civilization, held in Goa from 17th to 18th December 2017. The festival was an overwhelming ardor of festive ecstasy, speaking volume about the strengths of the rich Indic culture and heritage and its successful adaptation to contemporary times through talks, oration, and performances. The event was organized by Indic Academy in association with India Foundation.
1. Please tell us about what inspired you to clean the ghats of Kashi.
Temsutula Imsong: A ghat was not clean but it was beautiful. I wanted to sit there and so I got going and cleaned it. I have no hesitation in acknowledging that Narendra Modi ji’s vision (SBM) is an inspiration. Credit for this must go to Narendra Modi.
2. We would love to know more about you (childhood, education, etc.)
Temsutula Imsong: I grew up in Ungma village Mokokchung District Nagaland. I am second among seven siblings. My father is a retired school teacher and mother a house wife. In my village the much hyped ecofriendly practices like sanitation, water harvesting, etc. have been a way of life since as long as I could remember.
I did my schooling from Mokokchung and graduated from St Mary’s college Shillong. After my graduation I shifted to Delhi for further studies and also took up a job at British Counseling and Educational Institute.
3. Your experience and challenges in cleaning the ghats of Kashi
Temsutula Imsong: We came across people mocking us, ogling at us, passing lewd comments, relieving on the steps while we are cleaning. On social media there were some who were constantly trying to paint the entire effort in a bad light.
But then we decided to ignore them and focus on the people who stood by us and that took care of all the negativity as we were surplus on positivity.
4. Please tell us about your NGO Sakaar and the team.
Temsutula Imsong: Sakaar Sewa Samiti, an NGO was registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860, with 21 members. The NGO aims at promoting the development of rural community with an active involvement of servicemen, ex-servicemen as well as general public. Since its inception, the NGO has been doing commendable service to the community.
Most of our operations and institutions are based in rural areas with the intention of reducing the out flux of manpower from the villages and the resultant congestion in cities. This will be achieved by creation of employment opportunities in the villages and thereby simplicity of village life is retained.
Sakaar also aims to encourage the availability of top notch higher education in rural areas by setting up educational institutions which are at par with the best in the country.
Sakaar’s sole aim in every aspect of its functioning would be improving the lives of people and by this we don’t mean the material aspects only, but spiritual and moral aspects as well.
Sakaar has its registered office in Ghazipur while Varanasi is the leading unit and a small unit at Ungma, my native village so far. Dedicated regular volunteers achieve our activities till date. Members’ contribution and donations from well-wishers are the main and the only source for Sakaar.
5. Your involvement in other cleanliness drives in other parts of the country.
Temsutula Imsong: I have received huge support from all over India as well as local people. In fact, we have a Shramdaan India group in which different groups like MAD (Mumbai), CIF (Jamshedpur), SP (Bhopal), BoF’s (Raipur), HH (Alwar), PeP (Meerut), GM (Bhandara), IC (Nagpur), SG (Haridwar), SBM (Delhi), WMTC (Delhi) and so many others share the great work they are doing which results in amazing learning.
6. Your involvement in cleanliness drive in your home state Nagaland.
Temsutula Imsong: Recently, I participated in Shramdaan with Mokokchung Police led by SDPO Dinesh Gupta ji. I am in touch with few friends who does Shramdaan.from different districts. And I am sure that the efforts will get more people working in this direction.
7. The current status of the ghats of the Ganga in Kashi
Temsutula Imsong: All the ghats are clean with availability of trash cans and more toilets around the ghats. It is being regularly maintained by Nagar Nigam, Sulab International and ILF&S.
8. Your recommendations for cleaning the ghats of the Ganga in other cities.
Temsutula Imsong: Involvement of Local Population! Nothing will be sustainable without the active mobilization of Local Population, wherein they take up this cause as their own and pursue it. This is not only cost effective, but also long lasting and effective in the long run.
While doing this, the focus will not only be on mobilizing the urban population living alongside Ganga ji on Ghats, but also on the rural population who make up for a much bigger number, spread over a large area.
9. About awards, achievements, and felicitations received.
Temsutula Imsong: It was a dream come true for me to be invited by Prime Minister’s Office Thrice and meet Hon PM Narendra Modi Ji. I was lucky enough to be recognised by Swarajya Magazine with the prestigious Shree Narayana Guru award for social work in 2016, “Pride of North East” by Rotary Club Guwahati, and “Hurrah” by the Urban Sanitation Magazine.
It was again an honour to be Featured in Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi TV show hosted by Amitabh Bacchan on Star Plus as well as many programs on TV.
10. Future plans for Swacch Bharat.
Temsutula Imsong: I am more than convinced that the solutions have to come from the community or rather, the individual. This is one of the reasons that I am addressing the issue of waste management by conducting workshops in schools and enrolling students to practice home composting. My target by the end of this year is to enroll at least 10000 households.
That means only the recyclable things come out of the house, waste is used to make compost which further gets utilized in gardening or plantation.
For this, I am regularly conducting workshop with students and also with those who are willing to practice home composting.
11. Your message to readers.
Temsutula Imsong: By pledging to practice home composting and practicing Shramdaan in which they spend at least one hour every week to clean or maintain any public utility which is somehow connected with water. It can be a pond, it can be a well, it can be a river, or it can be even a public tap or a hand pump.
They can also join our efforts by filling in this form in the given link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSentX00Eg8FUWbpJCCZxir1Pg2qI5LZKMRYuQDJIyit42ZPqA/viewform.
My India My Glory salutes Temsutula Imsong. Jai Hind!