BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Feb 16: The two-day Assam Conference on Sanitation 2017 began here on Thursday with the objective to make people aware of needs of proper sanitation. The conference is being held with the help of UNICEF in association with the Sanitation Fund and the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance (GIWA).
Addressing a huge gathering of officials from block to higher levels, stakeholders and general citizens, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, “About 5 lakh 60 thousand toilets have been built in the State as part of Swachh Bharat Mission, and another 17 lakh toilets will be built in the next few years to achieve the goal of making Assam an open-defecation-free (ODF) State. I have directed the deputy commissioners to take this mission seriously.”
Reiterating that Swachh Bharat Mission was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 with the aim to make India clean, Sonowal said the State government is making all out efforts to make the campaign a success in Assam in the earliest possible time.
Saying that the government is taking all steps to overcome the challenge of water supply and sanitation in tea gardens and char areas, the Chief Minister said that with the aim to foster a spirit of competition among districts and villages, Champion Deputy Commissioner and Champion Panchayat President awards have been instituted, through which best performers in the field of sanitation will be awarded.
In his address, Central Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi said, “Swachh Bharat is a dream of every Indian. In the last few years, the Central government has constructed 3.36 crore toilets across the country. In this regard, Assam can play an important role for other Northeastern States.”
State PHE Minister Rihon Daimary, in his speech, said, “To make the Swachh Bharat Mission a success in Assam, my department is making all efforts. We will have to make it a people’s movement. For any such mission to be successful, public support is a must,” adding, “We have taken up scheme to award people concerned from block to district levels to make the mission successful.”
Union Secretary, Drinking Water and Sanitation Parameswaran Iyer, participating in the conference, said, “In Assam, progress in terms of checking open defecation is good compared to other States of the country. The system set up by the Assam government for awarding a clean village, clean block, etc., can be a model to emulate by other States to make the Swachh Bharat Mission a real success.”
The heads of GIWA called upon people to give importance to make everyone’s mind and body clean. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind secretary general Mehmood Madani said heads of other religions can emulate a practice started in four villages of the country, in which qazis refuse to perform nikahs in houses lacking toilets.
UNICEF officials said women have to play an important role in making the total sanitation programme a success. Nobody can make a programme/mission successful single-handedly, they added.
In the first day of the conference, former deputy commissioner of Sivasagar Birendra Mittal received the award for Lakuwa block in Sivasagar which was declared the first ODF Block in the State. Rangsapara in Goalpara district was awarded as the cleanest village in the State for 2016-17, with cash prize of Rs 5 lakh. Dima Hasao’s Zion village, Karbi Anglong’s Sidhamakha village, Lakhimpur’s Siajuli Bagan village and Kamrup’s Nijpanbari village received the clean village award with cash prize of Rs 2.5 lakh.
Three journalists - Ranjanlal Sarma, Bhaskarjyoti Bhuyan and Samim Sultana - were also awarded for their contribution to cleanliness and hygienic practices through news reporting.