Humanitarian and spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) today presented a cheque of Rs 100 crores to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the construction of toilets in the poorest villages along the banks of the river Ganga, as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat and Namami Gange missions.
Receiving the cheque at at Amrithapuri, in Kollam district of Kerala, Jaitely said that the Centre is determined to make the Namami Gange project a big successs like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the coming three to four years.
He pointed out that forty per cent of Indians are dependent on River Ganga and in the past, thousands of crores of rupees have been spent for cleaning this holy river. The Finance Minister said, like the first phase of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, targeting construction of toilets in all the schools in the country which turned out to be a tremendous success, efforts are on to provide toilets in all houses in the country. He said that this is one campaign that had grown well beyond a Governmental campaign as people from all walks of life all over the country and Non Resident Indians (NRIs) across the globe have taken it over in a big way.
Pointing out that the services of Amrithanandamayi Math is a combination of spirituality and philantropy, Jaitley said the donation of Rs. 100 crore would send a symbolic message to others too. Namami Gange project was approved by the government in May this year with an allocation of Rs. 20,000 crore over the next five years.
The aim of the project is to help millions of Indians by cleaning up the Ganga and curbing the menace of life-threatening diseases caused by contaminated water sources due to the widespread practice of open defecation in rural areas. In addition, a second contribution of Rs 100 crores will be announced by Amma during her birthday celebrations on September 27 to build thousands of toilets in Kerala’s villages.
Amrithanandamayi said, “Water, a symbol of life, is one of the five elements of nature that the Indian culture deeply reveres. Though the lives of millions of Indians today depends on the Ganga, this sacred river has only 25 percent of the original water left – the rest is sewage and factory waste. The unhygienic conditions prevalent in villages on the river banks cause diseases like cholera and diarrhea. As a person born and brought up in a coastal village, I have personally seen human suffering due to the scarcity of clean water.”
She said that “the villagers need to be taught that open defecation leads to water and soil pollution, which in turn contaminates food and causes parasitic infections. In our experience of building toilets for the poor, we have discovered that creating this awareness among the people is essential. Otherwise, despite having proper toilet facilities, they may not use them.”
Accordingly, Mata Amritanandamayi Math, will also be organising an awareness campaign among people in the villages on the banks of the river Ganga regarding the health challenges posed by open defecation.
The Swachh Bharat Mission is India’s largest environmental and cleanliness drive which includes the goal of providing sanitary toilets to 60 million homes by 2019. Present figures show that nearly 600 million people in India have no access to sanitary toilets – a major cause of disease and further societal problems.