Open Defecation Free was Lohia's brainchild, Nitish tells Modi

Narendra Modi with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday said veteran Socialist Ram Manohar Lohia was arguably the first leader who propagated Swachchta pariyojna (cleanliness drive) in the 1950s.

"Very few people are aware that it was veteran Socialist Ram Manohar Lohia who first advocated open defecation free (ODF) and talked of 'Swachchta' way back in the '50s. In fact, at one stage, Lohia said that he would stop opposing Jawaharlal Nehru if the then Prime Minister helped in constructing toilets for rural women and helped in making villages ODF," said Nitish.

The Chief Minister was speaking at the concluding function of the Champaran Satyagraha centenary celebration at Motihari. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on the dais when Nitish recounted Lohia's thoughts.

This was the first occasion in recent times when Nitish and Modi shared a dais after the relationship between the two allies the JD (U) and the BJP - nosedived following certain communal violence incidents in Bihar.

Modi said that it was Champaran which turned Mohandas Karamchand into Mahatma Gandhi. "It was Champaran Satyagraha in 1917 which made Bapu a Mahatma. Bihar has always been the torch-bearer," said Modi while lauding Nitish's efforts in Swachch Bharat Abhiyan.

Model IAS officer

The Prime Minister particularly praised an IAS officer, Parmeshwar ji, who heads the sanitation department at the Centre. "Here is one IAS officer, who himself cleans toilets and has become a source of inspiration for many others," the PM said while felicitating Swachchgrahis (volunteers of cleanliness) with a shawl and citation.

Earlier, Modi began his speech in Bhojpuri in his bid to strike an emotional chord with the people of Champaran. Later, the Prime Minister, through remote, also dedicated an electric locomotive factory at Madhepura, inaugurated a new train between Katihar and Delhi and laid the foundation for doubling of a railway track.

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