New Delhi: Narendra Modi should focus on making India open defecation free and not Congress free, Union minister Jairam Ramesh said today.
Ramesh, a key Congress strategist involved in drafting the party’s poll manifesto, however, praised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for her “greatest and strongest commitment” to make the south Indian state open defecation free by 2015.
“Unfortunately we have BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who says make India Congress-free. But I say make India open defecation free. India won’t progress by making it Congress-free but it will progress a lot if we get rid of open defecation,” he said after visiting an exhibition –Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India– organised by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Whoever the Prime Minister is, must lead a national movement to make the country open defecation free in 10 years time,” said Ramesh in a bid to make sanitation an issue for the Lok Sabha polls.
“If Congress comes, we will do it. We have already started. But this has to be done not as a government. This has to be done as a political will,” he said.
The outspoken minister, who kicked up several controversies on the issue when he was in-charge of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry, also said, “We spend far too much time on spirituality and far too less time on sanitation.”
“Our salvation lies in sanitation, not in spirituality. What is the point in having a clean mind and clean body if the entire environment around you is mugged up,” he said.
Referring to the progress made by various states in providing toilets to its people, Ramesh said, “Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has announced that by 2015 Tamil Nadu will become open defecation free.
Amongst all the chief ministers in India, I must say, CM of Tamil Nadu has shown the greatest and strongest commitment to sanitation. I applaud of her that.”