Ramesh, who is also a minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation, highlighted lack of awareness about sanitation and expressed concern on the issue of rampant open defecation in the country, particularly in rural areas. "In one area in which India can claim success in the social sector is education. We can't say same thing in health, we can't say same thing in nutrition, we certainly can't say the same thing in sanitation because we do remain the dirtiest and filthiest country," he said addressing a function here.
During an interaction with the audience, Ramesh said, "I am concerned. The biggest challenge I am facing, as a rural development minister, is to educate people about sanitation. 60 per cent of all open defecation in the world are in India."
"Today, if you go to many parts of India, you have women with a mobile phone, going out to answer the call of nature. I mean it is paradoxical...you have a mobile phone and you don't have a toilet. When you have a toilet, you don't use the toilet... use it as a godown," he said.
"You have to educate the values of cleanliness," Ramesh said. He, however, said today women accounted for almost 50 per cent of enrolment in higher education. "20 years ago, this enrolment was less than 25 per cent. In some states, women enrolment in higher education is higher than men. Girls enrolment in schools also have increased very very significantly," he said.