New Delhi: Stressing that women can be the prime movers of the sanitation movement across the country, President Pratibha Patil Wednesday said improper sanitation facilities and consumption of unsafe drinking water were the root cause of many diseases like diarrhoea, polio and typhoid in rural areas.
“It is well established that sanitation has a bearing on dignity, health and security of women. They benefit most and, therefore, can be the prime movers of the sanitation movement throughout the country. Their involvement has resulted in many achievements and will take the sanitation drive to its full success,” the President said.
The president, who gave away Nirmal Gram Puraskar at a function here, said a woman’s role was multi-dimensional and ranged from being a homemaker to a pillar of stability in society and had great potential to contribute to the economic welfare of the nation.
She said sanitation and good hygiene practices reflect the quality of life of the people and were among the determinants of the social parameters of a nation.
“Lack of sanitation in rural areas is one of the major causes of child and adult mortality and morbidity. Consumption of unsafe drinking water and improper sanitation facilities was the root cause of many diseases like diarrhoea, polio and typhoid in rural areas,” she said.
Anita Bai Narre from Madhya Pradesh and Usha Chaumar from Rajasthan, who fought to end the practice of open defecation, spoke at the function.
Narre shot to fame after she insisted on proper toilet facilities at her in-laws’ house after her marriage. Chaumar had worked as a scavenger before being rehabilitated and trained by NGO Sulabh International.
In his speech, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation minister Jairam Ramesh said Nirmal Gram was not only about the construction of toilets but was intrinsically linked with the security and pride of the womenfolk.
He said people should work in a mission mode so that all panchayats turn into “Nirmal panchayats.” He said the country should be free of open defecation in the next ten years.
Ramesh said there were 2.50 lakh gram panchayats of which only 25,000 were open- defecation free. He said that India accounted for nearly 60 percent of people practising open defecation.
The minister said Total Sanitation Campaign would be completely overhauled and a new national policy would be launched by next month.
The minister said a new award would be instituted in honour of social reformer Sant Gadge Baba, who had played a pioneering role in the field of sanitation.
The minister also announced special awards for panchayats which sustain the status of “Nirmal Gram” for a period of three or four years.