Tennis4Toilets: 22 envoys join Swachh Bharat campaign

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New Delhi, April 12: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a national initiative to keep India's cities and towns clean, is getting a diplomatic push with 22 ambassadors from across continents coming together to raise funds for making one Indian village open-defecation free.

The idea to join the initiative and make contribution for the community occurred last year when four ambassadors met over a routine tennis doubles tournament.

22 envoys join Swachh Bharat campaign

Serbian ambassador Vladimir Maric took the lead and he was joined by his tennis mates and counterpart from Bosnia Sabit Subasic, Guatemalan envoy Georges de La Roche Du Ronzet and Chile's mission head Andrés Barbé González.

They came up with the idea to raise funds by organising a charity tennis match for building ecological toilet in an Indian village. The event would have also promoted tennis as a sport in India.

Serbian envoy Maric, who initiated the project, said, "An idea just came while we were talking and enjoying tennis. It took us time, but now we are ready with Tennis4Toilets. We want the participants to play tennis and help pay for ecological toilets."

The aim, he said, was to raise enough money to make one entire Indian village open-defecation free. "We are expecting good participation both from private companies and individuals," Maric told IANS.

Initially there were just the four of them. The others like Morocco's ambassador Larbi Reffouh later became part of the initiative, given its altruistic appeal. Reffouh told IANS: "Prime Minister Modi's vision to give importance to cleanliness and health, particularly for the rural population, is a project that everyone would want to support."

The two-day doubles charity tennis tournament will be held on April 16-17. The first match will be at the R K Khanna Tennis Stadium and the second at the Serbian Embassy in Chanakyapuri.

For their initiative, they have got the full backing of the corporate world. From Tata to ITC, corporates have come out to support this idea wholeheartedly.

The organisers are expecting heads of diplomatic missions, international organisations, corporates and staff members to join the matches.

For the charity match, they have got support from the Ministry of External Affairs and are partnering with the All Indian Tennis Association, while the implementing agency is Sulabh Sanitation Mission Foundation.

The winners will play an exhibition match with Indian Davis Cup Team members, Reffouh added.

Sulabh was roped in the venture as they are the pioneers in providing sanitation solutions to the poor and several ambassadors, including US ambassador to India Richard Verma, has expressed confidence over the expertise of the organisation in improving sanitation in India and several African countries.

The funds generated through the tennis tournament will also be used in improving sanitation facilities in different places in near future.

The organisers are inviting people to send them mail at tennis4toilets@gmail.com by April 13 if they want to be part of the matches.

IANS

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