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Himachal Pradesh was on Friday declared ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF), the country’s second state, after Sikkim to get this status under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ to have toilet for every individual household. Among bigger states, however, Himachal Pradesh will be the first state to become ODF. All 12 districts of the state have been covered as ODF districts. The newly acquired status, which comes barely four days before the ODF status will be officially conferred to Kerala on November 1 (Kerala Day), will entitle Himachal Pradesh to receive World Bank funding under Rs 9,000 crore project to sustain sanitation campaign.
Making this announcement here jointly with Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Union Minister for Health J P Nadda, Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar said it was heartening to note how the state has achieved the ODF target, at least five months in advance by taking up the task for construction of toilets in a campaign mode.
“Himachal Pradesh has shown the way to the country and the experience will be shared, not only within the country about strategy adopted to cover the left out households, but also internationally. State’s chief secretary and entire team, including DCs, Divisional commissioners and BDOs, besides panchayati bodies, need to be complimented for this as ODF was one of the key element of PM’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,” he added.
Besides, World Bank funding to sustain the ODF status, Himachal Pradesh will also get funding for the construction of 7500 rural houses.
At a state level function held here to confer ODF status to Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the state government will not lag behind in implementation of central schemes for public welfare. It was his desire that Himachal Pradesh should overtake Kerala and thus steps were taken to meet the targets, and all gaps by October 28.
Union Health Minister J P Nadda said it has been observed that a lot of diseases are caused by lack of sanitation facilities and malnutrition. But once the sanitation issue (ODF is included) is handled, the occurrence of several diseases is bound to be come down. The ministry of health will draw-up a joint strategy with the ministry of rural development on the implementation of Swachh Bharat mission to check the outbreak of water-borne diseases, he added.
Secretary in the ministry of rural development Parmeshvaran Iyer said, the success story of Himachal Pradesh becoming ODF five months before the original target (March 31, 2017) will be shared with other states of the country. He, however, asked the agencies to sustain the drive as there are chances of state falling back unless it has a framed mechanism to deal with this. “The state, in fact, has already done so. That’s a happy situation,” he said.
Having 3,226 panchayats and a total of 18,465 villages as per baseline study done in 2012, Himachal Pradesh was one of the pioneering states which had taken-up Community-Led Total (rural) Sanitation (CLTS) in the country.