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'Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention' held in New Delhi
Close on the heels of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and International Day of Non-Violence on October 2, the commemorative events have started. One such event 'Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention' was held in New Delhi on September 29.

"Four days from now, on October 2, we will formally commence the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and this Convention is an appropriate process by which to welcome that remarkable event. Mahatma Gandhi was an early proponent of the universal right to sanitation. He saw it as intrinsic to the quest for human freedom and dignity for all those who live on our shared planet," President Ram Nath Kovind stated on the occasion of Inauguration of the event.

He reminded the audience that for Gandhi ji, political independence and self-rule were only part of the larger enterprise of human freedom. For him, the dignity of each human life, of each individual, was of the essence; and he strived not just for a free India but a better and a just India, and for a better and a just world. In his perceptive manner, he made an early link between sanitation and the wider concept of freedom and dignity, stated the official press release.

"Improving access to sanitation and eradicating open defecation have enormous implications. They are critical social and economic investments. I have been told that washing one's hands with soap, especially after contact with human waste, can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by 40 per cent and respiratory infections by 30 per cent. It is worth noting that diarrhoea and respiratory infections cause among the highest number of child deaths in India," he explained.

Touching the gender side of sanitation, the President said, "In the case of girl-children and women, the situation is even more acute. Absence of immediate toilet facilities, at home, in the workplace and – perhaps this is most vital – at school, place an unacceptable burden on our daughters. There are health problems that arise, in addition to the risks to personal dignity and physical safety in the search for something as basic as a clean toilet. No young girl should have to give up school only because a girls' toilet is not available."

Lauding the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of GOI, he said, "India has moved ahead with grit, determination and unusual urgency. Swachh Bharat is a revolution playing out in real time. As an instrument of mass mobilisation, as a people's movement, and as a national goal towards which there is near total commitment, Swachh Bharat represents for me the spirit of our Independence movement. I imagine Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of the millions of ordinary men and women who are the true stars of this Mission. No doubt his blessings are with us as India strives to eliminate open defecation in its entirety by October 2, 2019. This is the best 150th birthday gift we can give Gandhiji."

He suggested a Fivefold Path to Sanitation consisting of ensuring people lead the planning, implementation and management of sanitation programmes; using smart and affordable technologies for effective and efficient service delivery; eliminating all forms of inequalities in service delivery; creating innovative financing instruments to fund and sustain the sanitation movement; and     Develop capacities within the government to plan, implement and monitor sanitation programmes.

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