This is the first effort on my part to directly interact with all of you. I was told that from almost every block of the country you would be directly interacting with me. ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers as well as ANM are all front line soldiers for nation building. It is extremely difficult to imagine healthy maternity without you. I am glad that you are playing a crucial role in strengthening the foundation stone and the future of the country. You have taken the responsibility of strengthening the safety circle of every mother and child on your shoulders. There are three aspects of this safety circle. First is nutrition that is proper diet, the second is vaccination and the third is cleanliness. It will be wrong to say that people didn't know about these before or schemes pertaining to these aspects were non-existent. Several initiatives have been taken related to these aspects over the years after independence but with little success. Countries with lesser resources are also way ahead of us in these respects. They are doing much better than us. In order to come out of this scenario, we started working on a new strategy in 2014.
All of you are familiar with Mission Indradhanush. Under it, a goal has been set for vaccinating little children in remote and backward areas of the country. You have taken this mission forward at a rapid pace and have helped more than 85 lakh pregnant women to get immunized. The workers of Eastern India and Eastern Uttar Pradesh know that children are exposed to threat of Encephalitis. In order to fight such diseases, 5 new vaccines have been introduced including the one for Japanese Encephalitis under Universal Immunization Programme. Two years back, Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan was launched. Your contribution has been significant in its implementation. You are my companions. Earlier it was said that only God has a thousand arms. Of course, thousand arms cannot be added. It meant that there were 500 people in his team who were the helping hands of God to solve all the problems. Today, the country's Prime Minister can say that he has lakhs of arms instead of a thousand. And you all are my arms, friends.
Health is directly linked to nutrition. Moreover, nutrition is not restricted to only 'what one should eat or how one should eat?' cleaning and immunization are also essential. You might be surprised to know that marriage at a young age is also one of the major reasons of this problem. Marriage and pregnancy should be at the right age. Pregnancy before the right age can threaten the health of both the mother and child.
How the hands must be washed before meal? Several such things are linked to nutrition. Keeping this in mind, National Nutrition Mission was launched across the country from Rajasthan's Jhunjhunu this year. It is an ambitious mission. It is a big challenge but I have not accepted this challenge just for me. Acceptance of this challenge reflects my trust in you. You have proved your worth and you will again do so. We have taken this challenge just because of this trust. If we succeed in delivering these objectives of Poshan Mission to every mother and child then lakhs of lives will be saved. It will give a new impetus to the country's development.
Sometimes we hear that someone saved a drowning person. That person becomes famous in his village. Sometimes we hear that a person has saved the life of another person from getting crushed by a train. All television channels and newspapers start flashing this news. However, you are those people who save the lives of the small and innocent children everyday with your hard work, sacrifice and penance. A doctor saves the lives of innumerable people throughout his life. Sometimes I feel that the ASHA workers and the Anganwadi workers save more lives.
I salute the 24 lakh+ workers who are striving hard to make this nutrition month successful, for their contribution and for saving the lives of the people day in and day out. Today I have got the opportunity to salute you. I am eager to listen to your challenges, suggestions and experiences during the mission because those inputs will help us to get over the shortcomings of the schemes. The people like us, who are always in Air-conditioned rooms cannot resolve issues that you daily face on the ground. When the entire nation hears you, lakhs of other sisters and workers will also learn from yoour experiences. That is why I want to listen to you.