Stressing the importance of construction of toilets, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday launched a cleanliness campaign at an Uttar Pradesh village and honoured those who helped make the village free of open defecation.
"Construction of toilets is more important than temples," he said while launching 'Swachhta hi Seva' campaign from Ishwariganj village in Kanpur district, adding that the cleanliness mission had brought a new awakening among the people.
"Today, our country is fighting a decisive battle against uncleanliness. We have two years to achieve the targets of Swachh Bharat Mission. The 'Swachhta hi Seva' campaign is a nationwide attempt to strengthen this mission," an official statement quoted Kovind as saying.
He said keeping the surroundings clean was not only the job of sanitation personnel and government departments by people as well.
"Cleaning is not only the responsibility of sanitation workers. Even Mahatma Gandhi tried to teach this point 100 years ago while he himself engaged in cleaning. He had said that till the time you will not pick up broom and bucket in your hands, you will not be able to clean your village and city," he said.
The President said insanitation was a curse for society and that illnesses caused by it cost as much as 6.4 per cent of India's Gross Domestic Product.
"According to the Swachh Bharat Mission, number of those who defecated in the open has come down from 55 crore to 30 crore," Kovind said.
The Uttar Pradesh government will observe 'Seva Diwas' (day of service) on September 17 and carry out a range of activities, including building cess-pit toilets, voluntary work, and sanitation drives.