Make 'Nirmal Bharat' a national obsession, says Jairam Ramesh

     Minister for Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh on Friday said that India will be an open defecation free country in the next ten years and sanitation issue should become a national obsession. Talking about the Nirmal Bharat Yatra to be launched from Wardha on October 3, he said it is an epic journey of 56 days across 5 states spanning nearly 2,000 kilometers and will target over 9 crore people to spread awareness about sanitation. The yatra will conclude on 19th of November at Bettiah district of Bihar. Ramesh said that it should not be viewed as a government programme, but it is in true sense a social mission. " The Yatra is all about demand generation and sensitization about the sanitation issues as open defecation is a blot on our society. The Minister said that the single biggest cause of malnutrition in India is poor sanitation and hygiene and therefore the most important medical and behavioral message would be conveyed by this yatra," said Ramesh. " Sikkim has already achieved the ODF (Open Defecation Free) status and the States like Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra are on way to achieve the sanitation goals in coming one to two years. He said, for the first time 600 Swachchhta Preraks have been appointed at the district level, who will be given job cards to spread the message of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan," he added. Stating that the services of about eight and a half lakh Accredited Social Health Activists, ASHA workers and 13 lakh Aganwadi sevikas will be taken for spreading the message of sanitation in rural areas, Ramesh said: "25 lakh women self help groups in the country will also be roped in to drive home the message of sanitation scheme. A forum of 30 NGOs in different states will be formed for evaluation of the work of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan." Actress Vidya Balan, who is the Sanitation Ambassador was also present on the occasion, and said that she is very happy to get associated with this great national cause. Balan called for greater participation of the people to make the country open defecation free. " There is a wide gap between the urban and rural areas in terms of infrastructure, but hope that big changes will be visible in the coming years," she said. Balan, who is part of the multi-media campaign to be launched from 2nd of October this year, said that it really pains her that 65 percent of rural India has no toilet facilities and it is particularly disturbing for womenfolk. She also endorsed the slogan of the ad-campaign 'Jahan Soch, wahan Shauchalay'.

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