In the context of his ongoing debate on toilets with Narendra Modi, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh today praised the JD(U) government in Bihar for its efforts to eradicate the practice of open defecation and asked states, including Gujarat, to follow the 'Bihar Model' in that regard.
"This year, Bihar has taken a policy decision. No Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) house will be built without a toilet."
"So, we have recommended the Bihar model to all states," Ramesh, the Rural Development Minister, told reporters here.
"Today, I met all state government secretaries and asked them to follow the Bihar model, which ensures that no IAY house is built without a toilet," he added.
He said that Bihar had ensured not just a two-way convergence — that of MGNREGA and the ambitious Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) — but a three-way convergence — of MNREGA, NBA and IAY.
Ramesh's statement assumes significance in the wake of a clash between Gujarat Chief Minister Modi and his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar over the 'Gujarat Model' of development.
Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, had recently stated that it should be "toilets first, temples later" for the country.
Ramesh's comments came on a day when Kumar hit out at Modi for his speech at the rally at Patna on Sunday.
There are indications of a growing proximity between JD(U) and Congress ever since the former walked out of an alliance with NDA after snapping its 17-year-old ties with BJP when the saffron party named Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.
Ramesh, who reviewed the toilet construction programme in the country with state government officials, also said that about 85 lakhs toilets would be built in the current fiscal year through MGNREGA under the NBA programme.
"Today, we made a review of where we are. We have got firm commitments from major states — Uttar Pradesh has committed to building 18 lakh toilets, Bihar 10 lakh, Andhra Pradesh 16 lakh, Odisha 9 lakh, Rajasthan 5 lakh, Maharashtra 7 lakh, Madhya Pradesh 4.5 lakh and Jharkhand 2.5 lakh.
"The total comes to about 85 lakhs toilets committed to be built by state governments today. We will monitor the implementation and ensure that no procedures stand in the way," he added.