Prime Minister Narendra Modi sweeps a yard as part of the launch of the “Cleanliness is Service” campaign, or Swachhta Hi Sewa, in New Delhi. Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Launching the Swachhata Hi Seva (“cleanliness is service”) campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that all sections of society and every part of the country have joined the cleanliness drive.

Few would have thought that nine crore (90,000,000) toilets would be built and 4,50,000 villages declared “open defecation-free” within four years, he said during an interactive programme.

The “cleanliness is service” campaign will continue till Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2, with Modi asking people to rededicate themselves to fulfilling the father of the nation’s dream of a clean India.

The premier spoke to groups of people from across the country, besides several religious figures, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and personalities including Amitabh Bachchan and Ratan Tata through video-conference, in which they shared details of their work for the campaign.

Sanitation coverage in India has increased to more than 90 per cent, from 40 per cent in four years, Modi said. “Did anybody imagine that more than 450 districts would be ODF in four years or that 20 states and union territories would achieve the same status?” he said, calling it a historic day as he launched the fortnight-long campaign.

Adityanath said Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous and among its poorest states, would be OFD by October 2, 2018 as per a baseline survey of the Clean India (Swachh Bharat) campaign. He said that his government is working to ensure that every family has a toilet by October 2019.

His government had built over 10,360,000 toilets since it came to power last year and its emphasis on cleanliness has led to a drastic fall in vector-borne diseases.

Modi lauded Adityanath for his state government’s efforts.

The prime minister also spoke to people in the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana. He also interacted with Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel involved in cleaning Pangong Lake and its surroundings in Leh, besides religious and spiritual figures like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amritanandamayi, Sikh religious figures from Patna Sahib gurdwara and Muslim custodians of Ajmer Sharif shrine, among others.

Those working for cleanliness campaign would be remembered like freedom fighters in times to come and would be known as Gandhi’s true heirs, he noted.

Modi said his government is working for “waste to wealth” and sought contributions from everybody, adding that the government alone could not do it.

After the nearly two hour-long interaction, Modi took part in a cleanliness drive on the premises of Baba Saheb Ambedkar Higher Secondary School in Paharganj.

Union ministers, BJP leaders and workers across the country also participated in the exercise following the prime minister’s programme.