President awards 1,059 villages for sanitation drive

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Guwahati, Oct 20 (UNI) President Pratibha Patil today issued a clarion call to implement the ''total cleanliness mission'' in all villages of the country by 2012.

Giving away Nirmal Gram Puraskar to the village heads of 1,059 villages of 13 states in the eastern region, she expressed happiness that the rural people were showing interest in the ''total sanitation'' campaign, focusing on points like high dropouts in the school due to lack of sanitation facilities as well as solid waste management.

She said the Union Rural Development Ministry had introduced the Nirmal Gram Puraskar scheme in 2003 as an initiative for the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Last year about 5,000 villages were awarded and this year the number had increased to over 11,140.

She urged the non-government organisations and the government to work in close cooperation with the people in this direction.

The sanitation movement has not been particularly successful in the North East, especially Assam, except Sikkim, which is the top state of the region in its implementation.

Stating that sanitation was a key issue as nearly 250 crore people in the world lacked toilet facilities, she said the international community, including the United Nations, was taking steps to motivate the people to go in for complete sanitation. The UN had declared 2008 as International Sanitation Year.

Recalling that the Centre had launched the ''total sanitation mission'' way back in 1999, she exhorted the people to realise the vision of Mahatma Gandhi who had asserted that ''cleanliness was even more important than freedom.'' She appealed to the women and children to play a yeoman role in implementing the ''total cleanliness campaign'' in their areas of influence.

She added that the best way to honour womenfolk would be to provide proper sanitation facilities in homes.

''A strong and healthy family unit would lead to a strong and healthy nation,'' she said.

The President expressed concern that for lack of proper sanitation in schools, girls had to sometimes even quit their studies. Also, unhygeinic conditions in the villages, including polluted water, gave birth to several diseases. This should be checked urgently, she added.

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