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“A clean India would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150 birth anniversary in 2019,” said Narendra Modi as he launched the Swachh Bharat Mission at Rajpath in New Delhi on October 2, 2014.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wields the broom during a surprise visit to the Mandir Marg Police Station after launch of 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' in New Delhi on Thursday. The nationwide campaign aims to clean up India in five years. PTI

Prime Minister Modi exhorted people to fulfil Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a clean and hygienic India. Modi himself initiated the cleanliness drive at Mandir Marg Police Station. Picking up the broom to clean the dirt, making Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a mass movement across the nation, the Prime Minister said people should neither litter, nor let others litter. He gave the mantra of ‘Na gandagi karenge, Na karne denge.’

Modi also invited nine people to join the cleanliness drive and requested each of them to draw nine more into the initiative.

By inviting people to participate in the drive, the Swachhta Abhiyan turned into a National Movement. A sense of responsibility has been evoked among the people through the Clean India Movement. With citizens becoming active participants in cleanliness activities across the nation, the dream of a ‘Clean India’ once seen by Mahatma Gandhi has begun to get a shape.

In the past three years, nearly 3.6 crore toilets were constructed in a bid to make India free of open defecation.toilets swachh

Recently PM Modi announced that over 1.88 lakh villages across 130 districts have been declared as Open Defecation Free since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission two and half years ago.

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The government has launched Sanitation Survey in the name of ‘Swachh Survekshan-2017’ to assess and rank 500 cities and towns based on levels of sanitation and efforts made by respective urban local bodies and also to capture progress towards achieving ‘Open Defecation Free’ status.

The government has also launched a web portal ‘Swachhata App’ and ‘Swachhta Helpline 1969’ to enable citizens associate more and more with Swachh Bharat Mission in urban areas. Citizens can post photos of unhygienic places in urban areas on Swachh Aap and they will be informed of action taken by respective urban local bodies in specific time period. Using toll free Helpline Number 1969, citizens can seek information about the ways of participating in cleanliness mission and can also enquire the status of their applications for construction of toilets.

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In his recent blog post, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Swacch Bharat” initiative that was launched to tackle the issue of open defecation, a problem which has persisted for decades in India.

“Nearly three years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made one of the boldest comments on public health that I have ever heard from an elected official…I can’t think of another time when a national leader has broached such a sensitive topic so frankly and so publicly,” wrote Gates about the PM’s 2014 Independence Day address to the nation.gates tweet

He emphasised how impressive it was that Modi did not make empty promises, but went on to back up words with actions.

“Two months after that speech, he launched a campaign called Clean India (“Swachh Bharat” in Hindi), which now includes ending open defecation nationwide by 2019, installing 75 million toilets throughout the country—75 million!—and making sure that no untreated waste is dumped into the environment,” he wrote.

Taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focussing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment have become a practice. People have started to take part and are helping spread the message of ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness.’