Dhamra (Odisha): Launching green toilets very close to country`s missile test-firing facility, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today said there is no use blasting Agni missiles if the sanitation problem is not solved.
Ramesh, who recently said he spends 18 hours on toilets daily, stressed that one of the biggest challenges before the government is to ensure that all people get toilets.
"It is more important than the launch of Agni missiles. If there are no toilets then Agni is of no use," he said, suggesting that the eco-toilets can be named Bapu as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, who had led cleanliness drive in the country.
"Biotoilets can do to rural sanitation what Agni has done to external defence of the country," Ramesh said after launching eco-toilets using Bio-Digester technology of DRDO, the defence agency for missile development.
Dhamra town in Odisha is about 15 km from Wheeler Island from where the Agni-V ICBM with a range of 5,000 km was successfully test-fired a couple of months ago.
Ramesh said an amount equal to what is spent on security should be allocated for public welfare activities.
"The budget of rural development department is Rs 99,000 crore while we spent double the amount on defence with a budget of Rs 193,000 crore,? he said.
Maintaining that he did not want any decrease in the budget of the Defence Ministry, he said it should be ensured that an equal amount be spent for public welfare.
"There is no difference of opinion on this with me and the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation). Even they want this," he said.
Aiming at discouraging open defecation and improving sanitation conditions, bio-toilets are based on DRDO`s Bio-Digester technology. It has been developed by its Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior and Defence Research Laboratory (DRL), Tezpur.
Bio-Digester technology was used to decompose biological waste generated by soldiers deployed in high altitude regions like Siachen and Ladakh, they said.
The bio-toilets, which convert human waste into usable water and gasses in an eco-friendly manner, can be adapted for use in all terrains.
Out of the 2,40,000 gram panchayats in the country, the rural development ministry will install these eco-toilets in 1,000 gram panchayats with a budget of Rs 400 crores, Ramesh said.
The rural development ministry will soon sign an MoU with the Ministry of Defence in this regard, he said.
"Under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan launched recently, we will ensure that all gram panchayats are covered in the next ten years," he said, adding that his ministry would fund families to install the toilets but on-ground responsibility would be given to the panchayats.
"60 per cent people in the world who have to go outside for toilets are from India. Even Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are better than us. It is a matter of shame for us," the minister said.
"We cannot call ourselves a developed country till we stop open defecation," he said.
Sikkim is the first and the only state in the country that can boast of zero defecation in the open and Kerala will follow this year.
In the next 2-3 years, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab will also have no open defecation, he added.