New Delhi: The Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Sushri Uma Bharti, today said that the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) is an adequately funded programme, and the Government is confident of the realization of the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2nd, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi.
The Minister was addressing a press conference organized in the Capital today. Speaking on the occasion, the Minister introduced a new initiative of the Ministry in the drinking water sector, Swajal. Swajal is a community-owned drinking water programme for sustained drinking water supply, beginning with a pilot in six States. The first pilot will be launched on February 20th, 2018, in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, she said.
The Minister spoke about employment generation expected from the implementation of Swajal and the next level of activities under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), i.e. solid and liquid waste management, under which a convergence-based programme is being launched next week. The programme, named Ganga Gram, will also be launched in Uttarkashi on February 20th, and will be a model for solid and liquid waste management for all Ganga-bank villages as well as other ODF villages in the country.
She also reiterated that many more places of cultural importance will be taken up for elevation to improved standards of cleanliness under the Swachh Iconic Places initiative, as envisaged by the Prime Minister. She expressed hope that this new range of activities will help create many new jobs in the rural economy of the country.
Replying to a question, the Minister assured that behavior change and IEC activities are being given utmost importance and underlined that community engagement and behavior change are the founding principles of all Swachh Bharat Mission activities.
Speaking about the budgetary allocation to Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), she said that the Budgetary Estimate of FY 2018-19 has increased over last year. In addition, she said, that with the expected addition of an extra-budgetary allocation of another Rs 15,000 crore to the Mission, the Ministry was confident of achieving the goal set for it.
The Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, also made a presentation at the press conference. In his presentation, the Secretary, Shri Parameswaran Iyer, said that under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), rural sanitation coverage has increased to over twice the coverage at the time of the launch of the Mission, from 39% to 78.5%. Eleven States and Union Territories have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) so far, and this number is expected to rise to 15 by end of March 2018.
The Secretary also spoke about Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources (GOBAR)-dhan, a “Waste to Wealth” initiative of the Government announced during the Finance Minister’s budget address. Under this initiative, 700 districts of the country will be provided access to bio-gas resources to recycle animal waste and convert it into wealth and energy.