In a grand show demonstrating fast spread of Total Sanitation Campaign in the country Ambedkar Stadium on Thursday was the venue for the Nirmal Gram Puraskar ceremony.
The stadium was chosen to accommodate the 4959 award winners representing 4,945 Gram Panchayats and 14 block Panchayats from all over the country.
President APJ Abdul Kalam who gave away the prizes went around the stadium in an open jeep waving to the prize winners alongwith Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Large photographs of Mahatma Gandhi adorned the stadium with his message, “Sanitation is more Important than Independence”.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam said the PRI representatives increasing every year for getting this award shows that the movement has penetrated the minds of Panchayats and people.
He congratulated the Rural Development Ministry for bringing this transformation at the grass roots level towards clean and green villages leading to developed villages. Developed villages lead to developed India, he added.
Dr Kalam made PRI representatives take an eight point pledge which included making their village panchayat honest, transparent, clean and pollution free, crime free, having urban amenities, making children go regularly to school and make all villagers literate.
Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said that in just three years from 40 award winner PRIs in 6 states in 2005, it had jumped to 769 PRIs in 14 states in 2006 to more than 4,500 PRIs in 22 states this year.
He said the Nirmal Gram Puraskar seeks to select the best villages and role models of Rural Sanitation. We have now covered almost all districts of the country under Total Sanitation Campaign and the overall sanitation coverage has gone up from 21 per cent in 2001 to 45 per cent in 2007. There are seven states which have reached over 70 per cent coverage.
Overall about one crore household toilets and 1.23 lakh school toilets have been constructed this year alone.
Mr Aiyar said that cleanliness gives rise to both health and development.