I am deeply grateful to you for the honor you all have given me. This honor is not mine but those crores of Indians who have not only proved the resolve of Swachh Bharat but have also molded it in their everyday life.
Receiving the award from the Bill and Milinda Gate Foundation is special to me for two other reasons. First, the Foundation is working in remote areas of India as an important partner in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. Secondly, the way Bill and Milinda Gates are now contributing to social life after achieving many successes in personal life, I see it with great appreciation.
It is also very important for me personally to be given this award on the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This is a proof that if the manpower of 130 crore people gets involved in fulfilling any one resolution, then any challenge can be won.
I remember what kind of reaction came when I mentioned Swachh Bharat five years ago. Even today people often taunt me. But when work is done with a goal, with a purpose, commitment to one’s work, then such things do not matter. It means to me, 130 crore Indians to unite to make our country clean. It matters to me, among 130 crore Indians, to develop a vision for cleanliness. It means to me, every effort of 130 crore Indians that they have made for clean India. And therefore, I dedicate this honor to the Indians who transformed the Swachh Bharat Mission into a mass movement, who started making cleanliness a top priority in their daily lives.
Today I remember the old lady who sold her goats to build toilets in the village. Today I remember those retired teachers who donated their full pension for the construction of toilets. Today I remember a woman who even sold her mangalsutra to build a toilet in the house. Who started giving cleanliness a top priority in their daily lives.
This campaign was started by our government, but the command was taken by the people themselves. The result of this was that in the last five years, a record over 11 crore toilets could be constructed in the country. As a result of this, where the area of rural sanitation was less than 40% before 2014, today it is almost reaching 100%. Think, less than 40% in 70 years after independence and about 100% in 5 years.
But I believe that the success of Swachh Bharat Mission is above any figure. If this mission provided the most benefit to anyone, it would be for the poor of the country, the women of the country. For those who are resourceful, it is also normal to build two to three toilets in their homes. But what was meant by not having a toilet, he knew it well, which was deprived of this facility. Especially women, for the daughters and sisters, not having toilets was one of the biggest problems of their lives. It was against her dignity. It is my personal experience that despite knowing the whole situation, there was no idea how important it is to construct toilets in the house. You can imagine that from morning till all day, women used to wait for evening. Along with the diseases caused by open defecation, this wait pushed them towards more diseases.
Due to lack of toilets, many girls had to leave their schooling in between. Our daughters want to study, but the lack of toilets forced them to leave school and sit at home. It was the responsibility of my government to remove the poor women and daughters of the country from this situation, and we performed it with full power, fulfilled it honestly.
Today, it is a matter of great satisfaction to me that the Swachh Bharat Mission has become a medium for survival of millions of lives. It is the report of the World Health Organization that there is a possibility of saving 3 lakh lives due to this mission. Similarly, UNICEF has estimated that every family living in the village who are constructing toilets in their homes is saving at least Rs 50,000.
I have been told that a report by Bill and Milinda Gates Foundation has also come out that the increase in rural sanitation in India has reduced the heart problem in children and also improved the Body Mass Index of women. Seeing all these advantages of cleanliness, Mahatma Gandhi said that he considers cleanliness more important than independence.
Today I am also happy that the dream of cleanliness that Mahatma Gandhi had dreamed of is now going to come true. Gandhiji used to say that an ideal village can be built only when it is completely clean. Today we are not only a village, we are progressing towards making the entire nation a clean nation.
Since the inception of the United Nations, its main objective has been to improve people’s lives. The Swachh Bharat Mission has not only made the lives of crores of people better but has also protected their dignity and also played an important role in achieving the goals of the United Nations.
I would like to remind you about another study of UNICEF. This report has revealed that the quality of ground water has improved in the last five years and I believe that Swachh Bharat Mission is also a big contributor in this. The Swachh Bharat Mission has another impact that has been discussed very little. More than 11 crore toilets built during this campaign also opened a new door to economic activity at the village level. The raw material mobilized for the construction of toilets, the work of women being given as queen mistry, gave new employment opportunities to the poor at the very grassroots level.
The simple meaning of democracy is that people should remain at the center of the systems and schemes. A strong democracy is the one that makes policies keeping the needs of the people at the center. And where the expectations and needs of the people, the policies and decisions of the government are a platform, then the people themselves make the plans successful. This power of democracy is also reflected in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The success of Swachh Bharat Mission is also an example of bringing alive a system of constitution.
India had seen only Constitutional Federalism for decades. Our government has tried to convert this into Co-Operative Federalism and over time we are now moving on the path of Competitive-Cooperative Federalism. The way in which different states of India went ahead and participated in this campaign, made people aware, worked for the construction of toilets, that is also praiseworthy.
During this campaign, the central government made state governments partners and partners on every subject related to cleanliness. There was no shortage from training to funding. The states were helped in every way to speed up the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in their own way, fulfill the resolutions related to it. Today, I am happy that through the Swachhta Survekshan, there is a competition among the states that which state makes it to the top in the cleanliness rankings.
I am also happy with this contribution of India to the world because we have considered the world as our family. For thousands of years, we have been taught the liberal Charitanam tu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. That is, for the big-minded, for the big-hearted, the whole earth is a family. Therefore, India wants to play a strong role in the International Cooperation for Sanitation and Hygiene. We are ready to share our experience, our expertise with other countries of the world.
India is close to achieving its goal of cleanliness, but India is also working rapidly on other big missions. A campaign to promote Fitness and Preventive Healthcare is underway through ‘Fit India Movement’. By 2025, we have targeted India to be free from TB and we are also moving rapidly towards Universal Immunisation. With the National Nutrition Mission, India is also fast overcoming problems like anemia and stunting. Our focus under the ‘Water Life Mission’ is on water conservation and recycling so that every Indian gets adequate and clean water. And India has also launched a campaign to single-use plastic by 2022.
Today, while I am talking to you, the work of collecting plastic waste is going on in many parts of India. Many such mass movements are going on in India today. I have full faith in the strength of 1.3 billion Indians. I am confident that like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, other missions will also be successful. With this expectation, I conclude my thanks again to all the colleagues of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for this award and to the rest of the colleagues here.
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