Launching the "Swachhata Hi Seva" campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that all sections of society and every part of the country have joined the cleanliness drive as he noted few would have thought that nine crore toilets would be built and 4.5 lakh villages declared open defecation free in four years.
The 'Swacchata Hi Seva' or 'cleanliness is service' movement will continue till Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on October 2, with PM Modi urging people to rededicate themselves to fulfilling the father of the nation's dream of a clean India during an interactive programme.
The prime minister spoke to groups of people from across the country besides several religious figures, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and personalities including Amitabh Bachchan and Ratan Tata through video-conference in which they shared details of their work for the campaign.
The sanitation coverage in India has increased to over 90 per cent from 40 per cent in four years, PM Modi said.
"Had anybody imagined that more than 450 districts would be open defecation free (ODF) in four years or that 20 states and Union Territories would be open defecation free in four years," he said, calling it a historic day today as he launched the fortnight-long campaign.
Mr Adityanath said Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous and among the most poor states, would be open-defecation free by October 2, 2018 as per a baseline survey of the clean India campaign. He said that his government is working to ensure that every family has a toilet by October 2019.
His government had built over 1.36 crore toilets since it came to power last year and its emphasis on cleanliness has led to a drastic fall in vector-borne diseases.
Prime Minister Modi lauded Mr Adityanath for his government's efforts.
The prime minister spoke to people in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana. He also interacted with Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel involved in cleaning Pangong Lake and its surroundings in Leh, besides religious and spiritual figures like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Mata Amritanandamayi.
He also interacted with Sikh religious leaders from Patna Sahib gurudwara and Muslim religious leaders of Ajmer Sharif dargah among others.
PM Modi said those working for the cleanliness campaign would be remembered like freedom fighters in the times to come and would be known as true heirs to Mahatma Gandhi.
PM Modi said his government is working for "waste to wealth" and sought contributions from everybody. The government alone cannot do it, he added.
After his nearly-two-hour-long interaction, PM Modi took part in a cleanliness drive on the premises of Baba Saheb Ambedkar Higher Secondary School in Paharganj.
Union ministers and BJP leaders and workers across the country also participated in the exercise following the prime minister's programme.