New Delhi, Nov 17 (PTI) The "unprecedented" rate of toilet construction under the Swachh Bharat Mission helped achieve the goal of open defecation free (ODF) urban areas in the country, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said Friday and noted that the mission has become a 'jan andolan'.
"No initiative encapsulates the growth of India as well as the swachhata movement. Only 37 per cent of India was ODF in 2014. By 2019, we had achieved near saturation through a record construction of toilets," Puri said at an event here to mark 'World Toilet Day', which will be observed on November 19.
Referring to the increased focus of the government on sanitation since 2014, the minister also recalled the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the world's largest sanitation initiative, by the prime minister to achieve an ODF India by October 2, 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, according to a statement.
The Union housing and urban affairs minister said that the "unprecedented rate of toilet construction under the mission" has helped in achieving the "audacious goal" of ODF urban areas.
Puri said SBM (Urban) stands as the largest behavioural change programme, the statement issued by his ministry said.
"The mission has become a 'jan andolan' (people's movement) and has received unprecedented public participation," Puri said and highlighted the importance of the private sector in taking this movement to the next level.
He acknowledged the need for scaling-up work being done in the sanitation sector. "We want more and more civil society and NGOs to join us in our efforts to scale-up this sanitation drive," Puri said.
He emphasised that sanitation and cleanliness is an area where "you can touch the lives of people and the impact will be really satisfying".
In the statement, the ministry said World Toilet Day, celebrated on November 19, aims at help break taboos around toilets and make sanitation for all a global development priority. This day is significant for "India as toilets are the centrepiece of the country's swachhata movement that addresses myriad sanitation and hygiene concerns", it said.
Puri also spoke about how the mission has brought a positive change in the lives of women, girls and sanitation workers. "The mission has promoted women-friendly toilets, formalised casual workers, and encouraged women-led enterprises in sanitation leading to empowerment of women and girls," the statement said.
The ministry said the event witnessed the launch of a five-week Clean Toilets Challenge from November 19 to December 25. The initiative is conceptualised in line with the World Toilet Day-2023 theme of "accelerating change for safe sanitation", it said.
"This first-of-its-kind nomination-based toilet challenge aims to ensure functionality and sustainability of CT/PTs, with an objective to improve the operations and maintenance of toilets in urban India through a five-week long mass cleanliness and maintenance drive across all toilets.The outcome is aimed at focusing on functional, accessible, clean, eco-friendly and safe for all SBM Toilets," the ministry said. PTI BUN ANB ANB ANB