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Political leadership, public participation can help achieve total sanitation

Political leadership accompanied by public funding, partnership and people’s participation can help the world in achieving total sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday on the occasion of 149th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

He said till four years ago, India’s share in the world’s population that practised open defecation was 60 per cent, which has now come down to below 20 per cent. Addressing the concluding session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention here, he said 90 per cent of the toilets constructed are being used even as the government carries out constant follow ups to ensure that cities declared open defecation free “do not fall back on old habits”.

“It is the result of public participation that rural sanitation has increased from 38 per cent before 2014 to 94 per cent now,” the prime minister said. More than five lakh villages are now open defecation free (ODF), he added. Prime Minister Modi expressed satisfaction at the changing lifestyle of people in India, following the Swachh Bharat Mission initiative. While 25 states have declared themselves as ODF, the number of such villages has gone up to 5 lakh, he said. He added that the countrymen have made the Swachh Bharat Mission the world’s biggest people’s movement.

Prime Minister Modi recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s “Constructive Programme”, published in 1945, where rural sanitation was an important subject. The prime minister said an unclean environment, if not cleaned, leads to a situation where one starts accepting circumstances. On the contrary, if one cleans up dirt in the surroundings, he gets energised, and then does not resign himself to existing adverse circumstances, PM Modi added. He said India is on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. He highlighted the importance of the “4 Ps” in making the world clean: Political leadership, Public funding, Partnerships, and People’s participation.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who was also present at the event, said it (Clean India Mission) is by far not only the largest investment, but also the largest campaign of people’s mobilization in this area around the world. “It is inspiring to see the international community come together around this important issue. It is essential that we are ready to break taboos and speak out when lives are at stake, even on the most sensitive matters,” he said. “An estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide still do not have basic sanitation facilities I believe that what’s happening in India is quickly changing the statistics almost 1 billion still practise open defecation,” Guterres said. Poor sanitation causes disease, stunting, inconvenience and indignity, he said, noting that it exacerbates inequalities between men and women, rich and poor, city and countryside.

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