More than five years ago, on August 15, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first address to the nation from the ramparts of historic Red Fort, vowed to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi's dream of a clean India on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. A nationwide Swachh Bharat project was launched in order to build toilets in all villages of India.
Over centuries, women in rural India had to suffer the humiliation of being forced to defecate in the open, in the absence of toilets in rural households. October 2 this year was, in a sense, a day of celebration for Indian womanhood, as our Prime Minister declared India open defecation free on Wednesday.
"The world is amazed at our success. In five years, we have built more than 11 crore toilets for 60 crore population", said Modi.
According to official data, all 699 districts in India have been declared ODF. The data show 100,748,884 toilets have been built in 599,963 villages across India. From 38.7 per cent coverage of toilet cover in rural India in 2014, it has now reached 100 per cent.
Till five years ago, women in Indian villages had to wait till dusk to defecate in the open. They used to move in groups to the open fields to ease themselves in the dark. It was nothing short of a tragic situation. Today, with toilets built in households, women do not have to venture out in the dark. Now women themselves take care of cleanliness in their toilets, because they understand the importance of a toilet in daily life.
Modi said, this is only a brief half in the march towards progress. Work has already begun on the Jal Jeevan Mission, which is aimed at providing piped water to all rural households by 2022. On Wednesday, Modi also announced another ambitious project - putting an end to use of single-use plastic across India by 2022.
Single-use plastic has become the bane of world's environments. It is my ardent belief that Modi will be successful again this time. I would appeal to all sections of society to stop using plastic bags and instead use jute bags for daily use. Let us do our small bit in the interest of our future generations.
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