Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who brought sanitation issue into limelight by launching nationwide campaign to end open defecation -- often attracting controversies with his comments including the one on temple and toilets, was on Sunday stripped of the department.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has allocated the Drinking Water and Sanitation portfolio to Bharatsin Solanki with Independent charge.

Mr. Ramesh, who was given the charge of the department in July 2011, on Sunday expressed hope that his successor will take forward the initiatives that he had rolled out.

“I am sure my good friend Bharatsin Solanki will take forward and expand on the many initiatives launched over the past twelve months in drinking water and sanitation,” he told PTI when asked about how he felt about losing the portfolio.

Mr. Ramesh was given the additional charge of the Ministry after Mumbai Congress leader Gurudas Kamat refused to accept the low profile portfolio immediately after the Cabinet reshuffle a year ago.

During his stint in the Ministry, Mr. Ramesh kicked up several controversies and drew flak from many quarters as he highlighted the sanitation situation in the country.

His statements like “women demand mobile phones, not toilets” and “there are more temples in the country than toilets” were widely discussed in the country where 60 per cent of people still defecate in open.

To highlight the importance of toilet for women, he advised them -- “Don’t get married into a house where there are no toilets”.

Mr. Ramesh had also said there is no use blasting Agni missiles if the sanitation problem is not solved. His candid comments had jolted defence research agency DRDO into action which requested him to consider setting up ‘green toilets’ developed by it.

Mr. Ramesh, who rechristened the Government’s Total Sanitation Campaign as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, even roped in ‘Dirty Picture’ actor Vidya Balan as brand ambassador of sanitation campaign hoping to end open defecation in 10 years.

It was during his tenure, Planning Commission has allocated a Rs 3,6000 crores for the 12th Five Year Plan -- up from Rs 7800 crore in the previous Plan -- for sanitation.

The Ministry also increased the allocation for a toilet to Rs 10,000 from Rs 3,500 ending APL/BPL distinction for selecting eligible families under the scheme.

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