Mrs and Mr Gates,
I am extremely grateful to you all for this honour. This honour is not mine but for those crores of Indians who have not only proved the resolve of Swachh Bharat but have also applied it in their everyday lives. Receiving the award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is special to me for two other reasons. Firstly, the Foundation is working in remote areas of India as an important partner in the Swachh Bharat Mission. Secondly, the way Bill and Milinda Gates are now contributing to social life after achieving several successes in personal life, I see it with great appreciation.
It is also very important for me personally to get this award on the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This is a proof that if 130 crore people resolve to accomplish any resolution, then one can overcome any challenge. I remember the kind of reaction that I received when I mentioned about Swachh Bharat five years ago. Even today people often taunt me. But when any work is done with a goal, with a purpose, and a commitment to one's work, then such things do not matter. What matters to me is the coming together of 130 crore Indians to make our country clean. What matters to me is to develop a vision among 130 crore Indians for cleanliness. Every effort made by those 130 crore Indians to make India clean matters to me. And so, I dedicate this honour to the Indians, who transformed the Swachh Bharat Mission into a mass movement; who began to make cleanliness a top priority in their daily lives. Today I want to mention about the old lady who sold her goats to build toilets in the village. Today I want to mention about those retired teachers who donated their full pension for the construction of toilets. Today I want to mention about a woman who even sold her Mangalsutra to build a toilet in the house.
Brothers and sisters,
Of late, such a campaign was not heard of and seen in any country. This campaign was started by our government, but the command was taken by the people themselves. As a result, in the last five years, over 11 crore toilets could be constructed in the country, which is a record. As a result, the percentage of rural sanitation which was once less than 40 percent before 2014, is now almost reaching 100 per cent. Just imagine, less than 40 per cent in 70 years after independence and about 100 per cent in 5 years. But I believe that the success of Swachh Bharat Mission is beyond any figure. If this mission has provided the greatest benefit to any section of the society, then it is the poor of the country and the women of the country. For those who are a little well-off, it is normal to build two to three toilets in their homes. But those deprived of this facility knew the pain of not having a toilet very well. For women, daughters and sisters in particular, not having toilets was one of the greatest difficulties in their lives. It was against their dignity. From my personal experience I can say that despite being aware of the whole situation, there was no concern about the importance of constructing toilets in the house. Can you imagine that the women used to wait for the evening the entire day! Besides being prone to the diseases caused as a result of open defecation, this wait (for relieving themselves) pushed them further towards more diseases.
Due to lack of toilets, many girls had to drop out from schooling midway. Our daughters want to study, but the lack of toilets had forced them to drop out from school and sit at home. It was the responsibility of my government to pull away the poor women and daughters of the country from this situation, and we have done it with all our strength and honesty. Today, it is a matter of great satisfaction for me that the Swachh Bharat Mission has become a medium for the survival of millions. As per the report of the World Health Organization, there is a possibility of saving 3 lakh lives due to clean India. Similarly, UNICEF has estimated that every family living in the village who are constructing toilets in their homes is saving at least 50 thousand rupees. I have been told that as per a new report by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the increase in Rural Sanitation in India has reduced the heart problem in children and also improved the Body Mass Index of women. Looking at all these advantages of cleanliness, Mahatma Gandhi had said that he considered cleanliness more important than independence. Today I am glad that Mahatma Gandhi's dream of cleanliness is now going to come true. Gandhiji used to say that an ideal village can be built only when it is completely clean. Today we are moving towards making the whole country ideal in terms of cleanliness, and not just the villages.
Brothers and sisters,
Since the inception of the United Nations, its main objective has been to improve people's lives. The Swachh Bharat Mission has not only made the lives of crores of people better, but has also protected their dignity and has also played an important role in achieving the goals of the United Nations.
I would like to remind you of another study of UNICEF. This report has revealed that the quality of ground water has improved in the last five years and I believe that Swachh Bharat Mission is also a major contributor to the same. The Swachh Bharat Mission has another impact that has not been very well discussed. More than 11 crore toilets built during this campaign has also opened a new door to economic activity at the village level. The raw material mobilized for the construction of toilets, and the women being given the major work of construction as heads has given new employment opportunities to the poor at the very grassroots level.
The simple meaning of democracy is that people should remain at the center of the systems and schemes. A strong democracy is the one that makes policies keeping the needs of the people at the center. And when the expectations and needs of the people, as well as the policies and decisions of the government are on a single platform, then the people make the schemes successful. This power of democracy is also reflected in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The success of Swachh Bharat Mission is also an example of bringing alive a system of the Constitution.
India had seen only Constitutional Federalism for decades. Our government has tried to convert this into Cooperative Federalism and over a period we are now moving towards the path of Competitive-Cooperative Federalism. The way in which different states of India went ahead and participated in this campaign, made people aware, worked for the construction of toilets, is also commendable. During this campaign, the central government has made the states partners in every subject related to cleanliness. No stone was left unturned from training to funding. The states were helped in every way so that they could speed up the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in their own way and fulfil the resolutions related to it. Today, I am glad that through the Swachhta Survekshan, there is a competition among the states to reach the top in the cleanliness rankings.
Friends & Excellencies,
I am also pleased with this contribution of India to the world because we have considered the world as our family. For thousands of years, we have been taught that the उदार चरितानाम तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्। That is, for the down to earth person or for the golden-hearted person, the whole earth is a family. Therefore, India wants to play a strong role in the International Cooperation for Sanitation and Hygiene. We are ready to share our experience and expertise with other countries of the world. India is close to achieving its goal of cleanliness, at the same time India is also working at a rapid pace on other major missions. A campaign to promote Fitness and Preventive Healthcare is underway through Fit India Movement. By 2025, we have set the target for India to be free from TB and we are also moving rapidly towards Universal Immunization. With the National Nutrition Mission, India is also overcoming problems like anemia and stunting very fast. Our focus under the Jal Jivan Mission is on water conservation and recycling so that every Indian gets adequate and clean water.
And India has also launched a campaign to get rid of single-use plastic by 2022. Today, while I am talking to you, the work of collecting plastic waste is going on in many parts of India. Many such mass movements are going on in India today. I have full faith in the strength of 1.3 billion Indians. I am confident that like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, other missions will also be successful. With this expectation, I conclude my speech thanking all the friends of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation once again for this award, and also other friends present here today.
Thanks a lot!!!