Panchayats with zero open defecation feted by President

"Panchayats, as elected bodies at the grass root level, have direct contact with the people and they play a multi-faceted role in rural development," Patil said.

She was speaking at the Nirmal Gram Puraskar awards here where she felicitated 21 gram panchayats from as many states and one block panchayat from Tamil Nadu that are free from open defecation.

"Since the panchayats function as knowledge kiosks for dissemination of information about government programmes and policies as well as of new and better farming technology and for creating awareness regarding cleanliness and hygiene, proper training and information upgradation of Panchayat members should be constantly and vigorously taken up," she said.

President Patil said that rural sanitation in the country, which was as abysmally low as 1 per cent in 1980, reached about 21 per cent in 2001 and is now around 70 per cent.
She lauded the Total Sanitation Campaign of the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and said it was a unique tool for community mobilisation across the over six lakh villages in the country, where close to 70 per cent of the population lives.

She said rural development should be done in a manner that villages become progressive economic units and agricultural productivity is increased.

"The location of agro-industries and other productive activities in rural areas create linkages between the agricultural and industrial sectors, which has manifold advantages. There are many examples of companies who have worked in rural India and achieved success," Patil said.

She urged the MoRD to look at such examples and discuss with farmers and Panchayats the feasibility and possibilities of enterprising ways of organising agricultural activities and engaging with other sectors of the economy.

Highlighting that on an average about 1,000 children die every day due to diarrhoea-related diseases in the country, Patil said schools were the key points for inculcating good sanitation and hygiene habits in students.

In his welcome address, Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Vilasrao Deshmukh said that for strengthening the implementation of Total Sanitation Campaign, there was an increase in budget allocation from Rs 1,200 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 1,580 crore in 2010-11.

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