Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday declared that India is now open defecation-free, and said the feat, achieved in 60 months, has amazed the world.
Plastic is a major threat to the environemnt and the country has to chieve the goal to eradicate single-use plastic by 2022, he said. "Today rural India and its villages have declared themselves 'open defecation-free'," Modi said, speaking at the 'Swachh Bharat Diwas' programme here on Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary. The event was attended by around 20,000 village heads, including 10,000 from Gujarat.
When Modi launched the ambitious Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign after becoming prime minister in 2014, he had announced October 2, 2019 as the day India will be open defecation-free (ODF), citing how Gandhi laid immense stress on cleanliness and wanted the countrymen to pursue it. "The whole world is surprised by our achievement and appreciating and awarding us for providing toilets to over 60 crore people in 60 months by building over 11 crore toilets.
"The world is amazed by this feat," he said. The PM added that more than such accolades, he derives more satisfaction from the fact that the cleanliness mission is giving dignity to women and saving lives of lakhs of children. Sanitation, conservation of the environment and welfare of animals were dear to Gandhi's heart, he said. "Plastic is a major threat to all of them, so we have to achieve the goal to eradicate single-use plastic from the country by 2022," he said.
Just as millions of people joined the Satyagrah movement to oust Britishers on Gandhi's one call, crores of citizens joined this movement of "Swachhagrah" on his call given from the ramparts of the Red Fort in 2014, he said. "This Swachh Bharat mission is not only saving lives, it is also elevating the standard of living. As per a UNICEF survey, this mission made a positive impact worth Rs 20 lakh crore on Indian economy during the last five years," the prime minister said.
"It created employment opportunities for 75 lakh people, mostly rural people. It also made a positive impact on children's education and our productivity," said Modi. He urged people not to stop here, saying the next step should be to convince people to use the toilets that have been built. The Centre has planned to spend Rs 3 lakh crore on the ambitious "Jal Jivan Mission" aimed at water conservation, he said, appealing people to join hands to recharge water sources and recycle water at the local level.
Stressing the need to make India free of single-use plastic by 2022, Modi expressed satisfaction that use of plastic carry bags is gradually decreasing. "Today, entire world wants to learn from this model of Swachh Bharat Mission. When India received the Global Goalkeepers Award, the world came to know about our success. I also told the UN that India is ready to share its experience in sanitation with other countries," he said. On the occasion, Modi released a Rs 150 coin and postal stamps to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the father of the nation.