Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday declared the country free of open defecation, a feat he said was a major milestone for a country of 1.3 billion people, despite scepticism about his bold claim.
“Today rural India, its villages have declared themselves open-defecation free. They have used self-inspiration, self-will and co-operation to achieve this through the Swachh Bharat Mission,” he said at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat in the evening.
The announcement coincided with the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an icon not just for Indian independence but also sanitation.
The Prime Minister said that Indians have shed their hesitation for talking about sanitation and it has become an integral part of their “thought-process”.
“In 60 months, we have provided toilets to over 60 crore people by constructing over 11 crore toilets. The world is amazed at our success,” PM Modi said.
Whatever be the age, social and economic status, everyone has contributed in this mission of cleanliness with dignity and respect, Modi said.
He said the Swachh Bharat Mission had created over 75 lakh jobs, reported NDTV online.
Earlier, Modi paid floral tributes, visited the museum there, interacted with students and also went to Gandhi’s house called Hriday Kunj inside the Ashram. Modi also penned his thoughts in the visitors’ book.
Modi made his “latrines for all” pledge when he first took office in 2014.
The government claims to have built almost 100 million toilets in the past five years, winning Modi plaudits abroad -- including last week’s award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.