Government committed to making India clean by 2019: Naidu

(Karnataka): Stating that the number of Indians defecating in the open has come down from 60 crore in 2014 to 30 crore in 2017, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday said the government is committed to achieving “Clean India” by October 2, 2019.

“Mahatma Gandhi accorded highest priority to sanitation and cleanliness and had said ‘sanitation is more important than political freedom’. Every Indian should become part of this movement so that Clean India is achieved by October 2, 2019 — the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi,” Naidu said.

“Over 5 crore toilets have been constructed in rural and urban areas. There is some distance to cover, and we are all committed to achieving a clean and open defecation-free (ODF) India by October 2019,” the Vice President said during his visit to the state.

Naidu was speaking at the inauguration of “Swacchta Hi Seva”, a sanitation campaign, and the state government’s “Shouchalayakkagi Samara” (crusade for toilets) programme in Konnur village in Gadag district of Karnataka, located about 400 km to the north of the state capital.

During his visit to Konnur, the Vice President had declared Naragund Taluk of Gadag district open defecation free.

The number of Indians defecating in the open in rural and urban areas was estimated to have come down to 30 crore, from about 60 crore in 2014, he said.

Over 2,45,000 villages, 1,300 cities, 200 districts and five states had already been declared open defecation free, the Vice President said.

Commending the state government’s initiatives towards sanitation, Naidu said Karnataka had shown “remarkable” progress in declaring nearly 12,000 villages and seven districts open defecation free.

Quoting a United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, Naidu said good sanitation could save up to Rs 50,000 per family per year.

“A World Bank report has said that lack of sanitation costs over 6 per cent of our country’s Gross Domestic Product,” he said.

“Over 100,000 children in India die each year due to diarrhoea, which is caused by contaminated water and food, and many children face physical and cognitive stunting,” Naidu said.

“Women and girls face a serious threat to their safety when they resort to open defecation. These are all serious issues and can no longer be ignored,” he added.

“The dream of the Father of the Nation could be realised through Swachh Bharat Abhiyan if everyone from celebrities to common man selflessly participates in it, rather than treating it as a government-driven campaign,” Naidu stated.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or the Clean India Mission was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014 to eliminate open defecation in the country.

State Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation Ramesh Jigajinagi, Karnataka Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj H.K. Patil and other state officials were present at the public gathering.