PM Narendra Modi during a video conference with actor Amitabh Bachchan, in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
The sanitation coverage in the country had increased from 40 per cent four years ago to over 90 per cent now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday. Launching the ‘Swacchta Hi Seva’ campaign – which will last until October 2, 2019 — as a call for “renewed energy and enthusiasm” to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a clean India, Modi also said that the country had made rapid strides in the last four years of the Swachh Bharat Mission, something that was “unseen” in the preceding 60-65 years.
Stating that the cleanliness campaign had reached an important juncture, the PM said, “In 2014, the sanitation coverage in India was only 40 per cent. Today, because of people’s capabilities and commitment, the sanitation coverage is more than 90 per cent. Who would have thought that in the last four years we would have made the kind of progress in sanitation coverage which was unseen in the preceding 60-65 years. Did anyone think that in India, in four years, nearly 9 crore toilets would be built?” Since the launch of the movement, he said, almost 4.5 lakh villages, 450 districts, 20 states and Union Territories had become ODF. Launched on October 2, 2014, the NDA government’s flagship mission aims to make India Open Defecation Free (ODF) in five years.
Citing estimates from the World Health Organisation and another study, Modi said cleanliness and clean habits can save 3 lakh lives and cases of diarrhea would fall by over 30 per cent. “But only constructing toilets won’t make India clean. There have to be facilities in the toilets, facilities for garbage collection and disposal. Cleanliness is a habit which must be included in everyday experiences. This is the way towards a behavioral change,” he said.
The launch of the campaign was followed by a live video interaction with select people from various parts of the country. The PM spoke with actor Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Ratan Tata in Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a few representatives from the ‘Dainik Jagran’ media group, school students from Assam, as well as personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police who clean the area around the Pangong Lake in Leh. There were also interactions with spiritual figures such as Mata Amritanandamayi, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh, and Syed Moin Hussain Chishti from the Ajmer Sharif dargah.
Speaking to women’s groups in his home state of Gujarat, Modi praised the contribution of the ‘Nari Shakti’ in the mission as also that of the youth.