"When I was the minister for sanitation we had started Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, and its the objective was to end open defecation in India in 10 years time. Sixty per cent of Indian women are defecating in the open. You can have Swachh Bharat but if you have open defecation, they don't go together," Ramesh told reporters here.
Speaking on the sidelines of T N Khoshoo Memorial Award 2014 function here, he said "Indian Railways was the largest open sewage system in the world. 20 million Indians travel by railways every year, 50,000 coaches..., and the open system is not only bad for environment, it goes on to the track and corrodes, and it's bad for safety. All this was thought about as part of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.
"I don't know what... Swachh Bharat is a nice philosophical thing, take a broom, bring big personalities and start cleaning; but this a long-term thing, we have to end open defecation," he said.
Stating that it should be ensured that the entire railway system runs on modern hygienic toilets in five years, Ramesh said that is what he finds missing in the debate on Swachh Bharat now.
"Swachh Bharat has become a slogan, and has become bit of hype, so what exactly does it mean?" he reasoned and said "our idea was every gram panchayat should become free from open defecation; ...Swachh Bharat is a nice slogan, but what does Swachh Bharat mean?"
When asked whether the objective was missing in Swachh Bharat, he said "I'm not saying it is missing, but I don't see the debate that should be... where is the debate?"
Talking about Clean Ganga programme, Ramesh said, "80 per cent of the pollution into the Ganga is sewage, untreated sewage going into the Ganga, so unless you treat the sewage you are not going to make Ganga clean. You need sewage treatment, you need sewage network, and you need sewage treatment plants. So, that level of detail which was part of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan..., these are nice sounding slogans but programme requires far more details," he added.
The event was organised by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE). The award was conferred on Prof Mahesh Rangarajan, Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.