By Idhries Ahmad
NADIA, India, 30 April 2015 - You have set a benchmark for rest of India to follow.
An achievement which every Indian should be proud of. An achievement, which every person from Nadia wore on his sleeve today as they strutted out to be part of massive celebrations in the district. An achievement that has changed the future of Nadia’s children for ever.
Today, Nadia district in West Bengal was officially declared as the first open defecation free (ODF) district in West Bengal by the Honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms Mamta Banerjee. Nadia becomes the first district in India to be declared ODF in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
More than 100,000 people, including school children, religious leaders, health workers and common people cheered theirChief Minister declared the district open defecation free.
“Bengal is proud of its achievement. To make whole of WestBengal Nirmal is our promise & we're working hard to achieve this,” said the beaming Chief Minister.
On the occasion, the Chief Minister also declared April 30 to be celebrated as Nirmal Divas every year.
The celebration were attended by high level representatives from the State Government, Government of India, UNICEF and World Bank.
“UNICEF is proud to be a partner with Mission Nirmal Bangla and we are sure that its success is inspiring other districts in West Bengal as well as other states of India to take strong action to stop open defecation”, David McLoughlin, Deputy Representative, UNICEF India.
An inspiring story of commitment and determination
Nadia is a traditional rural backward district in West Bengal. The district census report of 2011-12 noted that out of the total population of 5.16 million, about 30 percent of the households in Nadia did not have access to toilets and defecated in the open.
In 2012-13, more than 10,000 diarrheal cases and 28 deaths owing to diarrhoea were reported in Nadia. About 1,195 children under-5 were severely malnourished and about 81,664 children were moderately malnourished.
Apart from health issues, women faced every day threats of sexual violence, shame and guilt because they have no other option but to defecate in the open
Recognizing the importance of eliminating open defecation, the district under the administration of P.B Salim and with technical support of UNICEF, decided to accord highest priority to sanitation and target for an Open Defecation Free Nadia.
eliminating open defecation.
A staggering 3,55,609 toilets were built in record time. While the frontline workers highlighted hazards of open defecation, anganwadi workers inspired masses for a better living. About 8.5 lakh school children from 4240 educational institutionspooled their efforts to make the district open defecation free.
On 21st February last year, more than two lakh citizens of Nadia participated in the human chain which was 122 kilometres long and spanned the entire district. Human chain was one of the most successful mobilization activities conducted by the district women, children, youth, elderly and people from different sections of the society formed the chain.
In record 18 months, from 66 percent in July 2013, the toilet coverage in the district increased to 100 percent by March 2015. About 5.16 million citizens of the district attained access to sanitary toilets.
A model for country to follow
Nadia has given the nation an innovative and inspiring model for eliminating open defecation. The transformation of Nadia to Open Defecation Free district is a story of commitment, thoughtful leadership coupled with overwhelming community participation.
It is a story of getting things done. It is time, all the other districts in West Bengal and India take up the challenge and make India open defecation free.
Three cheers for Nadia. Nadia’s people and the district administration.