New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that Swachh Bharat Mission has turned into the world's biggest mass movement on sanitation and has given a mantra for making the world cleaner.
"Political leadership, public funding, partnerships and people's participation are the four mantras for making the world cleaner," he said in his address at the closing session of the four-day Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention (MGSIC) in the presence of sanitation ministers and other leaders in WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) from around the world, besides UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres.
Referring to Gandhiji's remarks that he would give greater priority to cleanliness over independence, Modi said that he derived inspiration from the Mahatma and followed his guidelines while initiating the movement.
"Today, I am proud that our nation of 125 crore people is following in the footsteps of Gandhiji, and have turned Swacch Bharat Mission as the world's biggest mass movement," he said.
Asserting that the Swachh Bharat Mission has brought a behavioural change in the people, he said that rural sanitation has gone up to 94 per cent as against 38 per cent in 2014.
"Five lakh villages and 25 states have become Open Defecation Free," he said expressing satisfaction at the changing lifestyle of people in India, following Swachh Bharat Mission.
Mentioning the emphasis that Mahatma Gandhi placed on cleanliness, he said that an unclean environment, if not cleaned, leads to a situation where one starts accepting circumstances.
"On the contrary, if one cleans up dirt in the surroundings, he gets energized and then does not resign himself to existing adverse circumstances," he said.
Referring to 17 Sustainable Development Goals set up by United Nations, the Prime Minister assured UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that India will play an important role in achieving the goals.
"We are on track to achieve it before the set target. Along with sanitation our government is also focussing on nutrition," he said.
Addressing the gathering, Guterres congratulated Modi for giving priority to sanitation and said that clean India will be a befitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
"Mahatma Gandhi was ahead of his time when it came to safe, hygienic sanitation - as he was in so many areas. He demanded the right of sanitation for everyone. And he demanded respect for that right from everyone. And the Clean India Mission builds on his genius and lifelong quest for human dignity," he said.
The UN chief said that poor sanitation and open defecation have a disproportionate impact on women and girls.
"They may face an increased risk of harassment and abuse, restrictions on their personal freedom of movement and increased health risks because of lack of access to sanitation facilities and to menstruation materials. Girls cannot wait for safe, clean, private toilets in their schools. And women should not have to wait for sanitation in public spaces and workplaces," he said.
He said, to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, there is an urgent need to tackle the issue of sanitation as is being done in India.
"The 2030 Agenda, agreed by all countries, is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity and sanitation plays a part in all three. No country can be content with less than universal sanitation; it is fundamental to sustainable development and India's example is very much welcome at the present moment," he said.
Guterres said eliminating open defecation must be central to efforts to improve sanitation.
"I commend India for making the elimination of open defecation a priority at the highest level and throughout government, and I congratulate all governments that have agreed plans and allocated budgets to eliminate open defecation," he said.
Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said that Swachh Bharat Mission has helped the government, the policymakers at all levels and also to work towards one common goal.
"Never before have so many ministries and departments come together under a single umbrella that of Swachhata, of cleanliness. The manner in which this mission has been implemented is a ‘perfect model of convergence' of aims and policies," he said.
The Prime Minister, along with Guterres, witnessed a digital exhibition and released commemorative postage stamps on Mahatma Gandhi and a medley CD based on Mahatma Gandhi's favourite hymn - "Vaishnav Jana To".