President Pratibha Devisingh Patil felicitated over 2808 Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) awardees from 21 states for making their villages “Open Defecation Free” at a function in Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Union Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Vilasrao Deshmukh released a booklet on water security on the occasion, also attended by Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma.
About 500 Panchayati Raj Representatives from 21 states across the country were present at the function.
Improved Sanitation is regarded as a socio-cultural and economic yardstick for the nation. Her-Excellency, the President of India said while giving away the Nirmal Gram Puraskars for the year 2010-11. Over 800 invitees and awardees gathered for Nirmal Gram Puraskar function on 23rd March, 2011 in New Delhi at Vighyan Bhavan organized by Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Rural Development, Govt of India. Her Excellency, the President of India gave the award to the Presidents of 21 Gram Panchayats and 1 Block Panchayat having attained the Nirmal status of being Open Defecation Free. Her Excellency, the President of India awarded a memento and a scroll to the representatives of 21 Gram Panchayats and 1 Block Panchayat.
Her Excellency, the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil appreciated the efforts made by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Rural Development for up scaling Total Sanitation Campaign and achieving 70% sanitation coverage in rural India as of now (up from 1 % in 1980 to 21% in 1980). In her address she stressed that, “Total Sanitation Campaign” has an important role for women. Self Help Groups, Media Samities, Womens’ groups may be further encouraged to take up activities for good sanitation. They should be given an increased role by making them “Ambassadors of Sanitation.”
“For improved and better sanitation, attention should also be given to the hygiene of young girls” said Her Excellency, President of India
Her Excellency, the President of India said that even children should be duly educated about hygiene and sanitation with attention to toilet habits and should not be ashamed of cleaning toilets.
Her Excellency, the President of India said that many of our rural people face sickness due to water borne diseases related to bad sanitation. Adequate stress on hand-washing should be there to ensure spread of epidemics and diseases like diarrhea which lead to on an average 1000 deaths per day. For sustainable improvement of health, sanitation is a key factor. Good sanitation is a major key for reducing the incidence of all water borne diseases. Today we have democracy at the grass root level through the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Panchayats are elected representatives of the people as well as decision makers and important stakeholders in rural development. Panchayats have the potential to stimulate a revolution in village development. Panchayats must be encouraged to play a decisive role in this sphere.
While welcoming Her Excellency, the President of India, Minister of State for Rural Development, Ms Agatha Sangma expressed her gratitude for the presence of Her Excellency, the President of India who has always been a great source of energy and inspiration. She welcomed all the award winners who had come from different parts of the country to participate in the function.
Minister of Rural Development, Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, while addressing the gathering said that lack of sanitation facilities are holding back poverty reduction and economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. Provision of sanitation and a clean environment are, therefore, vital to improve the health of our people, to redice incidence of disease and deaths. Sanitation has been called the last taboo but it is indeed the first chapter and the foundation of meaningful human development.
Minister for Rural Development highlighted some of the important steps taken up by the department to strengthen the implementation of Total Sanitation Campaign such as increased budget allocation from Rs 1200 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 1580 crore in 2010-11, increase in the assistance for school toilet from Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000 (Rs 38,500 for hilly and difficult areas) and of Aaganwadi Toilet from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 (Rs 10,000 for hilly and difficult areas). He also mentioned that Department has prepared a Strategic Plan for Rural Sanitation upto the year 2022 through an incentive consultative process with intermediate goals clearly identified and linked to the Plan Periods to deal with the issue.
He said that the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) is a laudable initiative with tremendous potential to change the quality of life in our villages for the better. These awards have enabled the Panchayats to become role models in their areas of jurisdiction for achieving hudrend percent sanitation and have motivated other Panchayats in transforming into clean and healthy villages.
Shri Arun Kumar Misra, Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation while proposing the vote of thanks expressed his sincere thanks to Her Excellency for sparing her valuable time and giving away the NGP to PRI representatives. He also thanked Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, Minjister of Rural Development whose continuous motivation and guidance has helped all along the Department. He also mentioned that under his dynamic leadership, implementation of Sanitation programme is poised to scale new heights.
Shri Arun Kumar Misra added that efforts will be made to ensure complete sanitation coverage by 2015 and complete usage by 2017. He also lauded that suggestions made by Her Excellency and said that the suggestion of making groups/individuals “Ambassadors of Sanitation” is definitely an incentive and will be looked upon..However, he added that “sanitation is a difficult task and involves man to man contact and community efforts.
Secretary (DDWS) expressed his gratitude to Minister of State for Rural Development, Ms Agatha Sangma, Shri Pradeep Jain and Shri Sisir Adhikari for giving their constant support and guidance.
In the award function, Ms Suniho V. Zhimo, President of Zukhepu Gram Panchayat of Zunheboto district, Nagaland spoke on behalf of the award winning PRIs. While addressing the audience she said that as elected representatives of different tiers of Panchayats, it is their primary duty to make their areas hygienic, clean, livable and to instill confidence in the rural people by providing basic amenities for the community. The Total Sanitation Campaign has given the Panchayats a great opportunity to make people aware of the need of proper sanitary practices. On behalf of all the Presidents of the awarded PRIs, she also assured that with the support of the Union Government and State Governments, PRIs will sustain this achievement.