- Swachh Bharat Mission has built 11 crore toilets since 2014: PM
- The world is amazed at our success: PM
- Announcement comes on occasion of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said rural India has declared itself open defecation free, as the country celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, an icon of not just Indian independence but also cleanliness.
"Today, rural India, its villages have declared themselves open-defecation free. They have used self-inspiration, self-will and co-operation to achieve this through the Swachh Bharat Mission," he said at an event near Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat in the presence of over 20,000 village heads.
The Prime Minister said that Indians have shed their hesitation for talking about sanitation and it has become an integral part of their "thought-process".
"In 60 months, we have provided toilets to over 60 crore people by constructing over 11 crore toilets. The world is amazed at our success," PM Modi, who launched the 'Swachh Bharat Mission' in 2014, said.
He said the centre's flagship sanitation scheme had created over 75 lakh jobs and had a positive effect of Rs 20 lakh crore on the Indian economy, according to a UNICEF report.
Prime Minister Modi made his "latrines for all" pledge when he first took office in 2014, winning him plaudits abroad - including an award last week from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Providing access to toilet facilities to all rural households in the country was at the crux of the multi-billion-dollar Swachh Bharat Mission that included programmes like raising awareness and subsidies for making latrines.
Sanitation coverage in the rural areas of the country, which was 38.7 per cent on October 2, 2014, has been increased to more than 98 per cent, the government has said.
However, problems remain in some areas. Critics say lack of running water, poor maintenance and slow behaviour change are hampering the programme.