New Delhi: As Odisha gears up to celebrate the biggest festival of the season in the state from July 14 – the Rath Yatra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suggested that the event be used as a platform to spread the message on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Every year during the Rath Yatra more than 20 lakh people congregate in the temple town of Puri for a period of 12 days. The state has so far fared poorly in the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) programme with just 57.82 per cent sanitation coverage after four years of the campaign. In an official letter to Odisha Chief Secretary A. P. Padhi, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Parameswaran Iyer said,
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested using the upcoming festival of Rath Yatra as a platform for spreading the Clean India message, given the slow progress of the state in centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. This could be a significant opportunity to provide the much-needed acceleration to the programme.
The letter further said,
Utilising this auspicious occasion with the message of ‘Toilet Building’ and ‘Toilet Usage’ Odisha can witness the much needed behavioural change among people and achieve the coveted tag of open defecation free state.
The Ministry also suggested that the State government should declare the 2018 Rath Yatra officially as the ‘Swachh Rath Yatra’.
Suggestions Made By Centre To Make Rath Yatra Swachh
The centre has suggested that the state government should have high sanitation facilities at the festival locations across the State. Moreover, there should be Swachh Bharat Mission stalls and outlets at all areas, including Puri and other districts in order to guide people on how to reduce their carbon footprint during the festival and how they can contribute to the cause of Swachh India by keeping the state litter free.
As the Jagannath Temple in Puri, which is the hub of the yatra, is already included in the Swachh Iconic Places programme of centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the centre has asked the state government to draw up a detailed plan on the activities that the government will undertake to improve the cleanliness in the area.
Odisha’s Swachh Status Report
The state has been the worst performer in executing the Swachh Bharat Mission since the beginning. From 2014, when the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was officially launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Odisha has built about 38.08 lakh household toilets but the state sanitation coverage is still at 57.82% after four years of the Abhiyan, while its neighbouring Chhattisgarh has already achieved the 100% open defecation free milestone.
Out of 30 districts in the state, only two have been declared ODF, whereas 746 panchayats and 11,104 villages out of have self-declared themselves as open defecation free and await official verification.