Modi Wields A Broom In Clean India Drive
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Wielding a broom, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched the country's biggest-ever cleanliness drive that is expected to cost Rs 62,000 crore, asserting that the "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" (Clean India Mission) is "beyond politics" and inspired by patriotism.
Modi swept the filthy streets in Delhi to raise public awareness about cleanliness and sanitation.
Rejecting opposition criticism that his government has been taking credit for every achievement, the Prime Minister acknolwedged the efforts of all previous governments to make India clean.
"All the governments in this country have made one or the other effort to do this work. Several political, social and cultural organisations have made efforts in this direction," Modi said in his 25-minute address at Rajpath, where he formally kicked off the five-year-long campaign that will cover 4,041 statutory towns.
Administering a pledge to people to make India clean, he said that this task is not the responsibility only of municipal workers or the government but of all the 125 crore Indians.
He said that the campaign should not be seen as a mere photo opportunity.
Modi has urged every Indian to devote at least one hundred hours every year, two hours every week, towards cleanliness.
In an event marked by fervour and symbolism, the Prime Minister earlier wielded a broom and swept pavement in Valmiki Basti, a colony of sanitation workers in the Indian capital.
The urban component of the mission is proposed to be implemented over 5 years starting from October 2, 2014 in all 4,041 statutory towns.
The total expected cost of the programme is Rs 62,009 crore, out of which the proposed central assistance will be of Rs 14,623 crore.
The Cabinet had last month decided to merge the 'Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan', a campaign for rural sanitation with Swachh Bharat Mission.
The Prime Minister countered Congress criticism that his government behaves as if everything happened only after he came to power.
"I do not make any claim that the government, which has been elected to power just now, has done everything."
The Congress has accused Modi of taking credit for the initiatives undertaken by the previous United Progressive Alliace (UPA) government and trying to give an impression that every good work was done only by him.
Maintaining that everybody deserves kudos, the Prime Minister asked not to get into making political barbs on the issue.
"Everybody before us has worked for it. Under Mahatma Gandhi's leadership, the Congress had led it. Who was successful, who was not. Let us not get into it who has done it, who has not. We should work responsibly," he said.
While ruing that 60 per cent of populace in rural areas still defecate in open, the Prime Minister said the stigma of women lacking toilet facilities has to be removed.
Modi said that he has requested the corporates to evolve plans under corporate social responsibility to build clean toilets specially for girl students in schools.
India, he said, should learn from foreign countries, where people are disciplined and do not litter in public places. He said though it is a difficult task, it can be achieved and for that people will have to change their habits.
Modi said that a campaign has been unleashed on the social media as well where a separate website for the mission has been launched and he is tweeting about the drive on his Twitter handle.
Expressing confidence that the nation can achieve the target of becoming one of cleanest in the world, the Prime Minister dwelt upon the low cost success of the Mars Orbiter Mission.
"If people of India can reach Mars with minimal expenditure, why can they not keep their streets and colonies clean," he said.
"If we make it a public movement, we can make our country being counted as one among the cleanest nations," he said.
Modi earlier in the day visited the 'samadhi' of Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on their birth anniversary.
Quoting a WHO estimate, the Prime Minister said a person in India loses about Rs 6,500 per annum due to illness and poor health as he is unable to perform day-to-day duties.
He said if the surroundings are kept clean, then people will remain healthy and such losses can be minimised.
Less than one-third of Indians have access to sanitation and more than 186,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, according to charity WaterAid.
A United Nations report in May said half of India's population still practise open defecation.
Diseases and deaths because of unhealthy conditions cause major economic losses, and a World Bank report in 2006 estimated that India was losing 6.4 per cent of its GDP annually because of poor sanitation.