Less than half a per cent Indian villages can be termed clean

World Water Day, 22 March
On the eve of World Water Day Indian government honoured 2,857 villages in 23 states with Nirmal Gram Puraskars [clean village awards]. Nirmal Gram Puraskar is given by the Indian government in acknowledgement of hundred per cent water, sanitation and hygiene coverage in a village. The President of India Ms Pratibha Patil, in a ceremony held in Delhi, awarded these 2,857 villages for their cleanliness achievements. India has more than 600,000 inhabited villages, of which less than half a per cent have qualified to get the award for cleanliness.

The ironic fact is that none of the villages in the state of Goa, which is known for its beaches and is popular among foreign tourists, could qualify to get the Nirmal Gram Award. Even in Kerala, which is another tourist site in India, only 7 villages could get the award.

The top five states to get maximum awards are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, where more than 300-400 villages received Nirmal Gram Puraskar. 

This could have been possible due to awareness in these states. 

Says twenty eight year old Sushila Devi from Madhya Pradesh, “I went back to my parents’ house and told my mother in law that I would come back only when they have got a toilet constructed in the house, which was finally done and I am back now.” The smile on Sushila face narrates more than what she says.

Madhya Pradesh is the sixth state from top in getting Nirmal Gram Purskar. 

While giving away the award, Indian president Ms Pratibha Patil said that out of 2.5 million people lacking essential services the largest contribution is from India. 

“Despite the success made so far, the challenge for sanitation is bigger. There is a need to have an integrated approach with emphasis on school sanitation,” said Ms Patil. 

She stressed further, “The villages are the base for the economic, social and political growth of India and unless they are clean the nation cannot grow.”

She appreciated the appointment of more than 24,000 community workers at grassroots level, which took place during the NGP award function last year.

On this occasion, the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Mr Jairam Ramesh admitted that with 60 per cent of population defecating in the open, Nirmal Gram Puraskar is just a function to pat our backs but the real work is beyond receiving the award and also by sustaining the status of being a Nirmal Gram Puraskar.

Mr Ramesh hoped that in next 5 years following the example of Sikkim state, which boasts of hundred per cent sanitation coverage, Maharashtra would also strive to be the second such state in the country.
So far 10% of panchayats have received Nirmal Gram Purskar since its inception in 2003, but more important is to sustain the status and the gram panchayat which will achieve in doing so will be awarded separately at national level.

Nirmal Gram Puraskar [Clean Village Award]
In order to ensure hundred per cent sanitation the Government of India started a country-wide Total Sanitation Campaign. The Total Sanitation Campaign is now operational in 607 rural areas of the country. The endeavour is that all villages of India become ‘open-defecation free’ and turn into Nirmal Grams [clean and green villages]. 

To recognise and encourage the Panchayati Raj Institution efforts under Total Sanitation Campaign, Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) was announced on October 2, 2003. A ‘Nirmal Gram’ is an “Open Defecation Free” village with all houses, schools and anganwadis having sanitary toilets besides awareness amongst communities about the importance of maintaining personal and community hygiene, good sanitation and clean environment. 

The state wise list of NGP awarded villages is as follows:

State                                No. Of GPs awarded NGP 2011
Maharashtra                 442
Gujarat                            422
Meghalaya                       365
Haryana                         330
Himachal Pradesh           323
Madhya Pradesh              212
Andhra Pradesh              142
Chhattisgarh                   124
Karnataka                       103
Uttarakhand                      63
Mizoram                           53
Tamil Nadu                      51
Odisha                             48
Uttar Pradesh                   41
West Bengal                    36
Rajasthan                         32
Punjab                             19
Nagaland                         17
Arunachal Pradesh          14
Kerala                               7
Bihar                                 6
Assam                               5
Jammu and Kashmir          2

Alka Pande
(The author is a senior journalist)




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