Addressing the concluding session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention here, PM Narendra Modi said political leadership accompanied by public funding, partnerships and people's participation can help the world achieve total sanitation.
Elaborating on the success of his government’s “Clean India” campaign, Modi said India’s share in the world's population, which practiced open defecation, was 60 per cent till four years ago. This has now come down to below 20 per cent. Modi said the Mahatma's principle of "ahimsa" has the power to unite humanity when terrorism, radicalisation, extremism and mindless hate are dividing nations.
At the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in Sevagram, an ashram that the Mahatma set up in 1936 in Maharashtra's Wardha district, the party resolved to fight a second freedom struggle against the Modi government.
At a public rally in Wardha to mark Congress' efforts to commemorate the Mahatma's 150th birth anniversary, party chief Rahul Gandhi said Mahatma Gandhi aimed to unite the country but Prime Minister Modi was working to divide it. He asked the PM to talk about the Rafale fighter jet controversy. He said the Modi government waived loans worth Rs 3.2 trillion of capitalists who were close to it, but did not write off the debts of farmers. "You tried Modi (gave him a chance)...he broke your trust. Now, trust the Congress, Mahatma Gandhi's ideology to take India forward," Rahul said.
In New Delhi, the PM and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj launched a five-minute medley of the Mahatma's favourite hymn, which has been sung by singers of 40 countries. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was also present.
The PM also penned a blog on the occasion. Over the past four years, 1.3 billion Indians have paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi in the form of the Swachh Bharat Mission and it has emerged as a vibrant mass movement with commendable outcomes, the PM said. Over 85 million households now have access to toilets for the first time, he said.
The CWC passed two resolutions, including one in support of the protesting farmers. In its first resolution, it noted that the CWC on July 14, 1942, met at Sevagram and adopted the 'Quit India' resolution demanding immediate independence for our country. The Quit India Movement was launched a month later on August 9, 1942.
"The CWC underscores the blatant hypocrisy of the RSS that vilified and rejected Mahatma Gandhi during his lifetime, and which today has brazenly proclaimed itself to be his champion. It is its ideology that was responsible for spreading the atmosphere of hate that led to the Mahatma's tragic assassination," the resolution stated.
It said a new freedom struggle was the urgent need of the hour to combat the forces of divisiveness and prejudice. "The CWC notes that appropriating Mahatma's legacy may be politically expedient for some, but imbibing his principles and values in thought, word and deed is impossible for those who see in the Mahatma only electoral opportunities," it said.
Chief Ministers and governors also paid tributes to the Mahatma on his birth anniversary. Some opposition leaders pointed out that the annual "International Gandhi Peace Prize" has not been conferred for the last four years. As a tribute to the ideals espoused by Gandhi, the government launched the International Gandhi Peace Prize in 1995 on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary.