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Meet Munni Chetri, the Lone Crusader Cleaning Rivers in Assam's Barak Valley

Munni Chetri cleans a river in Assam. (News18)

Munni Chetri cleans a river in Assam. (News18)

For the 26-year-old college dropout from Bhaga Bazaar of Badarpur, ' Swach Barak-Swastha Barak' is not a mere slogan, but a driving force. She leaves home at 6 am to clean the major rivers traversing through Barak valley.

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Niloy Bhattacherjee

"My friends think that I am mad. Some have even suggested that I see a doctor," says Munni Chetri, a social worker from Assam's Badarpur. Her friends, she adds, ask her why she is bothers with the cleanliness of the rivers of Barak Valley when there is a designated mission with adequate funds put in place by the government already.

For the 26-year-old college dropout from Bhaga Bazaar of Badarpur, ' Swach Barak-Swastha Barak' is not a mere slogan, but a driving force. She leaves home at 6 am to clean the major rivers traversing through Barak valley.

“I collect garbage from the Barak and Kushiyara rivers. The water and the banks are equally polluted. Baby diapers, animal carcasses and even human foetuses are dumped in the river," she said.

Explaining how she carries out the cleaning activities, Chetri said, "I wear gloves cleaning these decomposed carcass. I burn the solid waste or dump those at a distant dumping place. I dig graves on the banks and bury them any foetuses I find. The stench is unbearable, but I take it as a challenge and move ahead in my mission."

The Barak river flows for 900 kilometres through the states of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam before it enters Bangladesh. The upper part of its navigable part is in India between Lakhipur and Bhanga, declared as National Waterway 6 since the year 2016.

The Kushiyara river runs through Bangladesh and Assam. On the India-Bangladesh border, it emerges as a distributary of the Barak River, where it into the Kushiyara and Surma.

Chetri devotes five to six hours every day to her mission. Initially, a local teacher and a neighbour joined her for a day, but for the rest of her journey so far, she has been a lone crusader.

Munni had to leave her studies due to financial constraints. However, she ensures that her young sister who is pursuing her graduation in science moves ahead with her studies.

“Most people I meet often question whether being a girl will I be able to accomplish such an unfathomable job. I think it’s the job of every citizen to do something. It’s a fundamental right of every citizen to live in a clean atmosphere and so everyone needs to work towards it. Depending on government for everything doesn’t work” says Chetri.

According to Munni who does private tuitions to support her family of six members says she has possibly collected 10 to 12 quintals of pollutants and garbage from the rivers in the past three months.

“I feel sad that when I post pictures of my work on social media. People give their likes, but they do not come out practically to join me in the cleanliness drive” laments Munni Chetri.


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