Minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla on Thursday launched the country's biggest evercleanliness drive - 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' (clean India mission) - Himachal Pradesh on the occasion of Gandhi's birth anniversary. Addressing a large gathering at the city's historic Ridge ground, she said the civic authorities needed to keep the hill station, often referred to as the "Queen of the Hills," clean.
Appreciating the state government's efforts to ensure proper sanitation in rural areas, she said: "Residents of 86% of villages now have access to clean toilets. People need to be sensitized about this campaign, which is not a one-day affair but should be an ongoing effort."
Accompanied by rural development minister Anil Sharma, Heptulla administered the "cleanliness pledge" to those present on the occasion and also released a CD of jingles on sanitation in local dialects prepared by the rural development and panchayati rajdepartments.
The campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project, has set an ambitious target of complete sanitation in the next five years which includes getting rid of open defecation and smart management of both solid and liquid waste across the country.
Addressing the crowd, Sharma said: "Of the 3,243panchayats in the state, 1,011 have already received the Nirmal Gram Panchayat award from the central government after fully achieving their sanitation target, while over 500 more panchayats have applied for the award this year. Himachal Pradesh has around 20,700 villages of which over 86% now have home toilet facilities. The state government will now focus attention on remote and tribal areas to ensure proper sanitation and clean toilets".
Sharma also inaugurated the 'Aadhar' based National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme wages payment system. "This system would not only bring transparency into payment of wages but also ensure time bound payment," he said.
Meanwhile, Himachal chief secretary P Mitra administered the "cleanliness pledge" to employees of the state secretariat on Thursday at the start of the drive. Among those present were additional chief secretary VC Pharka, principal secretary (forests) Trun Sridhar, principal secretary (PWD) Narender Chauhan, principal secretary (finance) Kant Baldi, principal secretary Ali Raza Rizvi, principal secretary (ayurveda) Sanjay Gupta, principal secretary (education) PC Dhiman, principal secretary (industries) RD Dhiman, principal secretary (food & civil supplies) K Sanjay Murthy and special secretary (urban development) Purnima Chauhan.