160 districts to become open defecation free by 2016: Minister

Kolkata: Asserting India was on track towards becoming an open defecation free (ODF) nation by 2019, Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh on Friday said at least 160 districts across the country will achieve 100 percent sanitation coverage by the end of the year. Speaking at an ICC organised event on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan here, Singh said since the October 2014 launch of the mission, 16 districts across the country covering over 63,000 villages have become ODF districts so far. "We are very confident of achieving the target of becoming an ODF nation by October 2019. In fact, 160 districts across the country will become ODF by the end of this year. "Six states including Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka are in the queue of becoming OFD in the next one year. In fact, most of the state cabinets have passed resolutions for becoming OFD states much before the deadline of 2019," he said.  Currently, Sikkim is the only state to have achieved 100 percent sanitation coverage. Urging private sector participation, Singh stressed the significance of the behavioural change of the population towards sanitation and hygiene for the effective implementation of the initiative. "We have built around 11.11 crore toilets but the construction of toilets is not the challenge. Making the people use them and keep the toilets functional is the real challenge. "That is why I say behavioural change is the crux of the mission. We need to inculcate the importance of sanitation and hygiene in the people," he said.  Even as he emphasised the central government's commitment towards providing funds for the implementation of the project in the states, Singh called upon the private players to contribute more towards the 'Swachh Bharat Kosh' created for collecting contributions from individuals and organisations for the initiative. "We need active private participation not just towards contributing funds but also taking up sanitation as one of their CSR activities. Private participation is importance for the success of the project," he added.