The Nirmal Bharat Yatra “to make the country open-defecation-free and to ensure proper sanitation in rural India” began on Friday from Sevagram in Wardha district of Maharashtra in presence of the Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
The Yatra has been organised by Wash United and Quicksand Design Studio jointly “to increase awareness about cleanliness among people through different awareness programs “which would be carried out as the Yatra progresses.
The Yatra will travel almost 2,000 km through villages from Maharashtra to Bihar and will end in Bettiah town in the West Champaran of Bihar on November 19.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Ramesh termed the open defecation as the blot on Indian society and said, “Every Indian should be ashamed that more than 60 per cent of women in India have to defecate in open. Even after so many years, we cannot say proudly that every woman in India has a toilet available for her.”
“This Nirmal Bharat Yatra is connected with the dignity of Indian women. We are ranked third in the world in terms of economic growth, but even today we have the problem of malnutrition and one of the main reasons for it is uncleanliness and open defecation. If we want to give dignity and security to the women of this country and to protect the future of our children, then we will have make India an open defecation-free country” he added.
Reffering to Hivre Bajar village in Maharashtra which was among the first open defecation-free villages, Mr.Ramesh said: “We want to make every village in India like Hivre Bajar and we can do it. Sikkim has become the first completely open defecation-free State in India. Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana will also follow the suit very soon.”
“In Maharashtra every third village is open defecation-free and the State government has promised to make 4,000 more villages open defecation-free villages this year” said the Minister.
He also announced that Rs.10, 000 will be given for the construction of a toilet from this year and Gram Panchayats will be given financial assistance from Rs. 7 lakh to 20 lakh rupees for liquid and solid waste management.
“Money is not the problem. This problem is of intent. The Nirmal Bharat programme is not a government's program but people’s programme” said Mr. Ramesh.
Actress Vidya Balan is the brand ambassador of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra and Sachin Tendulkar will also take part in it, Mr. Ramesh said.