New Delhi, Mar 23 (ANI): Emphasizing on the need for proper sanitation in rural areas, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Wednesday said improved sanitation is regarded as a socio-cultural and economic yardstick for a nation.
President Patil, who gave away the Nirmal Gram Puraskars for the year 2010-11 at Vigyan Bhavan here today, appreciated the efforts made by department of drinking water and sanitation, ministry of rural development for up-scaling total sanitation campaign and achieving 70 percent sanitation coverage in rural India till date.
In her address on the occasion, President Patil said: "Women and Self Help Groups, Mahila Samities may be further encouraged to take up activities for good sanitation and be assigned to play an increased role by making them the 'Ambassadors of Sanitation'."
The President lamented the fact that inadequate sanitation facilities in the rural areas have resulted in many a rural people falling sick and therefore in order to ensure sustainable improvement of health, sanitation is crucial.
"Panchayats have the potential to stimulate a revolution in village development and they must be encouraged to play a decisive role in this regard," she said.
Union Minister for Rural Development Vilasrao Deshmukh, while addressing the gathering said that lack of sanitation facilities are holding back poverty reduction and economic growth in some of the world's poorest countries.
"Provision of sanitation and a clean environment are, therefore, vital to improve the health of our people, to reduce incidence of diseases and deaths. Sanitation has been called the last taboo, but it is indeed the first chapter and the foundation of meaningful human development," said Deshmukh.
"The Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) is a laudable initiative with tremendous potential to change the quality of life in our villages for the better. These awards have enabled the panchayats to become role models in their areas of jurisdiction for achieving hundred per cent sanitation and have motivated other panchayats in transforming into clean and healthy villages," he added.
Deshmukh highlighted some of the important steps taken up by the government to strengthen the implementation of 'Total Sanitation Campaign' such as increased budget allocation from Rs. 1200 crore in 2009-10 to Rs. 1580 crore in 2010-11, increase in the assistance for school toilet from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 35,000 (Rs. 38,500 for hilly and difficult areas) and of Anganwadi Toilet from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 8,000 (Rs.10,000 for Hilly and Difficult Areas).
The Minister, who also released a booklet on water security on this occasion, mentioned that the department has prepared a 'Strategic Plan of Rural Sanitation' upto the year 2022 through an intensive consultative process.
Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma, who was also present on the occasion, expressed her gratitude to the President for her inspiration and called upon the award winners to carry the message of rural sanitation across the length and breadth of the country.
Union Minister of State for Rural development Sisir Adhikari and Pradeep Jain "Aditya" also attended the ceremony. Secretary Department of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation along with the senior officials of the department and representatives from states were present on this occasion.
Suniho V. Zhimo, President of Zukhepu Gram Panchayat of Zunheboto District, Nagaland, spoke on behalf of the award winning PRIs. She said that as elected Panchayati Raj functionaries it is their primary duty to make their areas hygienic, clean, livable and to instill confidence in the rural people by providing basic amenities for the community.
Nirmal Gram Puraskar is a comprehensive incentive based program which recognizes the efforts of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) by giving cash awards to those PRIs, which have attained full sanitation coverage and completely eliminated the practice of open defecation. (ANI)