Guwahati, Oct 19 (UNI) When President Pratibha Patil gives away the Nirmal Gram Puraskar to eastern zone winners here tomorrow, the main focus would be to put North East on the fast track for achieving total sanitation, Union Rural Development Minister Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said here today.
Many North East states were surely lagging behind and it was mostly due to less awareness and tomorrow's function was aimed at changing it, Dr Singh said.
Altogether 1059 Gram Panchayats (GM) of 13 states would be awarded tomorrow.
West Bengal has the highest number of winners with 328 GMs in eastern zone, followed by Chattisgarh with 226 GMs and Bihar with 156 GMs.
Among the NE states, Sikkim has the highest 37 award-winning GMs, with Tripura winning in 30 GMs, Assam in 14 GMs, Meghalaya in 11 GMs, Mizoram and Nagaland in 8 GMs each, Arunachal in four GMs and Manipur in one GM.
As many as 11,140 GMs would get the award this year with the award-giving functions being held at three places to facilitate the participation of all winners with the President travelling to Hissar for the first phase on Friday last.
She will also participate in the last leg at Pune later in the year.
Dr Singh conceding that the rate was still slow in the NE pointed that it was fast catching up.
The NE had a maiden award in 2004-05, the year the Puraskar was introduced with one GM of Tripura as the state had been winning it for 36 and 46 GMs respectively in the successive years.
Nagaland and Manipur would be debuting in the awards' list this year, the Union Minister pointed out saying the wide coverage was a positive sign.
India was aiming at achieving total sanitation by 2012, three years ahead of the United Nations Millennium Goal deadline fixed for nations of the world.
The number of Nirmal Gram Puraskar winners had gone up from 38 in 2005 to 760 in 2006 and 4945 in 2007 with 11,140 winners this year.
UNI SG SJC RN2032