There is increasing medical evidence that suggests that high incidence of malnutrition is the direct result of poor sanitation and hygiene. This is the larger context against which the department of rural development, drinking water and sanitation has launched the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Initiative).
It was launched three weeks ago, Jairam Ramesh, union minister in charge of the department, said here. The abhiyan is significant for three reasons, the union minister said. One, it has a focus on gram panchayats. Second, financial assistance to families has been scaled up from Rs3 500 to Rs10 000 for setting up toilets with no standard design being prescribed. Third, there is no APL/BPL distinction for selecting eligible families under this scheme. Fourth, promotion of liquid/solid water management systems is envisaged.
An amount of Rs3 500 crore has been allocated for the rural sanitation programme for 2012-13, which the minister said was ‘good to start with.’ For the 12th plan period, the allocation would be Rs 35 000 crore. This is ‘a huge’ first step towards achieving the larger goal of ‘nirmal bharat,’ the minister said. Entire political class needs to embrace this movement, which is also the most needed social reform of the time. “We would welcome new technologies and new innovation to fuel this drive. I have had exchanged with the Bill Gates Foundation on the matter,” the minister said.
Using toilet on moving trains also amount to an act of open defecation. Eleven million people move daily on trains across the country. In this context, the minister said he had launched in Orissa a ‘biodigester’ using Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) technology. His ministry proposed to enter a memorandum of understanding with the DRDO on popularising the technology, which has been transferred to 49 private companies.