President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday called for enrolling women in a big way to make cleanliness a pivotal campaign in the rural areas and to build character and healthy habits among children.

Addressing the winners of the Nirmal Gram Puraskars for the year 2009, the President emphasised on enlisting the active participation of women, self help groups, anganwadis and other women institutions for the success of the cleanliness crusade launched across the country under the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC).

Union Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi and Ministers of State Agatha Sangma and Pradeep Kumar Jain also attended the function where 28 block panchayats and two district panchayats were awarded for attaining the status of Nirmal Gram.

Emphasising that 70 per cent of the population lived in the rural areas and that 15 lakh children die of diarrhoea annually, Ms. Patil said that the cleanliness campaign had to start with children first. She said that it was necessary to set up toilets at all schools and anganwadis.

If these children learn clean habits and moral values, the President underlined, it would be a valuable asset not only for their career but also the nation.

Similarly providing toilets at homes in the rural areas could ensure dignity and self-respect of women. “With cleanliness, their health will naturally improve,” the President asserted.

The President also voiced her concern over the prevalence of scavenging in some parts of the country despite the ban on the practice and said that society should put an end to this inhuman occupation.

She called for proper rehabilitation of those engaged in the job within a set time frame.

More In: Delhi