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President of India tells global sanitation conclave “an open defecation free India is the best 150th birthday gift we could give Mahatma Gandhi”

Fifty-three Ministers among participants at Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention

Web Admin

Web Admin

5 Dariya News

New Delhi , 29 Sep 2018

The Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention began today with more than 160 international representatives from 68 countries amongst the  350 attendees. Fifty-three Ministers of sanitation are among those in attendance, all of whom aim to learn from India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM),  or “Clean India“ programme, and share their own sanitation and hygiene experiences from home.Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, noted in an  inaugural speech that “an open defecation free India is the best 150th birthday gift we could give Mahatma Gandhi”. Mr. Arun Jaitley, the Indian Minister  of Finance and Corporate Affairs, said that the SBM had benefited not only from political leadership, but also people’s participation from all sections of  society including eminent personalities from various disciplines and, most importantly, ordinary citizens. “All of this occurred at an appropriate time of  great economic growth in India and benefited from a bottom-up approach that broke a larger problem into smaller parts that were easier to solve”, he  said. Mr. Kevin Rudd, Former Prime Minister of Australia, and Chair, Sanitation and Water for All, said, “Other things are important, but sanitation is  essential. The glasses of Gandhi are the gaze of the ages looking down at us.”A recurring theme through the day was how the SBM has transformed  from a government programme to a true peoples’ movement. “Everybody in this country contributed [to the Swachh Bharat Mission]; that is why a  miracle has happened”, said Uma Bharti, Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, India. 

“[Swachh Bharat] is no longer a project of the government; it has become a project of the people”, said Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister (I/C) Housing and  Urban Affairs, India. Mr. Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, India, noted how Gandhi’s vision of an open  defecation free India “is now being translated into reality, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.” Mr. D.S. Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing  and Urban Affairs, observed that the Convention would allow for sharing of experiences that would benefit India as well as visiting countries.In the  plenary on behavior change at scale, Mr. Iyer noted that India has transformed from the largest contributor of open defecation to the largest behavior  change movement. Ms. Jennifer Sara, Director of the Global Water Practice at the World Bank, indicated that targeted messaging was critical for  behaviour change programmes to work. Mr. Roland Ravatomanga, Minister of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Madagascar, spoke of studying and  applying social norm theory and social transformation in sanitation programmes. And Prof Valerie Curtis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical  Medicine, said passion, emotion, reward and incentivization are all pillars for sustained behaviour change.Following the opening plenaries, a series of  parallel technical sessions examined key sanitation-related topics, including strategic partnerships (moderated by Ms. Naina Lal Kidwai, Chair, India  Sanitation Coalition), urban sanitation and fecal sludge management (moderated by Mr. Brian Arbogast, Director of WASH, Bill and Melinda Gates  Foundation), gender and inclusivity (moderated by Ms. Yasmin Ali Haque, Representative, UNICEF India), sustainability of ODF communities  (moderated by Mr. Arun Baroka, Joint Secretary, MDWS), sanitation as everyone’ business (moderated by Mr. Akshay Rout, Director General,  MDWS), and technology and innovation (moderated by Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Chairman, High Level Technical Committee, MDWS). 

The sessions also included addresses by visiting Ministers from Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, and Indonesia, as well as eminent speakers such as Mr.  Ashwani Lohani (Chairman Railway Board, India), Mr. R Venkataraman (Managing Trustee, Tata Trusts), Swami Chidanand Saraswati (Global Interfaith  WASH Alliance), Mr. Bindeshwar Pathak (Founder, Sulabh International) and Prof Robert Chambers (IDS, University of Sussex), among others.The  MGISC, hosted by the Government of India, culminates on 2nd October with the launch of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth year celebrations, also  marking the beginning of the final year of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) or Clean India Mission. The 2nd October session will be presided over by  the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi.Dignitaries confirmed to attend the latter portion of this historical global sanitation convention include  the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms Henrietta Fore.Tomorrow, ministers will go on  an inspirational ‘Gandhi Trail’ field visit to Gujarat. Another upcoming highlight of the event will be the Ministerial Dialogues, which will include  discussions on topics such as adequate financing for sanitation, working at scale for universal access, country-specific sanitation challenges and the  at-scale solutions found.India is close to becoming open defecation free. The rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39% in  October 2014 to 94.35% as of 29 September 2018. Nearly 86.5 million household toilets have been constructed under the Mission. 24 States/Union  Territories, 503 districts, and close to 500,000 villages have declared themselves free from open defecation. The number of people practicing open  defecation in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014, to less than 150 million today.


Tags: Ram Nath Kovind , Hardeep Singh Puri , Uma Bharti , Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi



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