Stating that sanitation is a "complete disaster" in India, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today urged the Planning Commission to make the issue "a national obsession" otherwise it would remain as a "scourge" on the society.
Referring to the new Census results which said that almost 60 per cent of India's population is still defecating in the open, Ramesh said it is a "real blot on us as we can send satellites into space, but we can't put toilets on the ground."
"This is something that we really need to make it to a national obsession. Unless you make it a national obsession, we are not going to weed out our society this scourge...," Ramesh said after distributing the Manav Vikas India Human Development Awards, instituted by the Planning Commission and UNDP.
Ramesh, who kicked up a controversy recently by stating that 'Women demand mobile phones, they are not demanding toilets', said that he was happy that the Census of 2011 has recognised what he had said.
He said he had "got lot of flaks, from women's group" for making his remarks in the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
"Census results are out today. When you look at the census, you find that almost 60 per cent of India's population is still are in the open defecation regime," Ramesh, who also holds the additional charge of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, said.
Kottayam in Kerala, Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, Udupi in Karnataka and Malda in West Bengal have been recognised for excellence in the quality of Human Development Reports for their districts.
The overall award for excellence went to West Bengal with two districts among the eight finalists.
The Manav Vikas India Human Development Awards, instituted by the Planning Commission and UNDP, celebrate achievements in Human Development Reports and encourage excellence in data, analysis and ideas, and advocacy for human development.
The Awards are a reminder of the critical need to continue to focus on people as the centre of development processes. The inaugural awards focus on excellence in District Human Development Reports (DHDRs).
Commending India for one of the largest bodies of work on human development, Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator said, "India has had an incredible journey on human development reporting, with reports being prepared at decentralised levels of governance. It also shows that a critical mass of human development champions have been developed in the country that can help in improving the quality of life."
The awards were presented by Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and jury members including Jairam Ramesh and M S Swaminathan.
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