(CNS): 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 fifth 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 the 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 from inception of NGP in 2003 but more important is to sustain the status and the GP 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 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
Himachal Pradesh 323
Madhya Pradesh 212
Andhra Pradesh 142
Tamil Nadu 51
Uttar Pradesh 41
West Bengal 36
Arunachal Pradesh 14
Jammu and Kashmir 2
Alka Pande - CNS
(The author is a senior journalist and writes for Citizen News Service – CNS. Website: www.citizen-news.org)