Allahabad, August 12: Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath on Saturday reiterated the commitment to make the entire Uttar Pradesh state ODF by December 2018 and stressed that Swachh Bharat Mission is among the top priority programs in the state.

Yogi Adityanath added, “Encephalitis is a major challenge, not from today, but since 1978. The eastern belt of Uttar Pradesh is victim to encephalitis. Government and society need to work together to uproot it.”

Yogi Adityanath said the awareness towards cleanliness is the prerequisite towards tackling the virus of encephalitis. He added, “There needs to be more awareness towards encephalitis among the masses. Defecation in the open should stop.”

Speaking at Ganga Gram Sammelan, Union Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar said all 4480 villages on the bank of River Ganga in 52 districts and 5 states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand & West Bengal) were free from the scourge of Open Defecation.

Tomar highlighted the progress made under Swachh Bharat Mission. He said that the country has made fast and remarkable progress with sanitation coverage increasing to around 66.5% with 2.25 lakh villages and 169 districts becoming ODF. He said that the country is well placed to achieve the target of becoming ODF by 2nd October 2019.

Later, Uma Bharati, Union Minister for Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation and Narendra Singh Tomar launched model Ganga Gram initiative under which 24 Namami Gange villages have been identified in the 1st phase (Uttarakhand – 3, Uttar Pradesh – 10, Bihar – 4, Jharkhand – 5, and West Bengal – 2) to make them Adarsh Ganga Grams.

The Ganga Gram initiative would focus on better cleanliness and infrastructure facilities like Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM), rejuvenation of ponds and water sources, water conservation projects, organic farming, crematorium and overall convergence with other government departments and projects.

At the end of the programme, 30 Swachhta Raths were flagged off. The Raths are mobile vans equipped with LED panels for screening Swachhta Films and also a Nukkad Natak Team for community engagement in villages.

The Raths would tour the entire state and create mass awareness and would help in triggering behaviour change among the community members. In this week about 300 Raths in may states will tour thousands of villages to disseminate message of swachhta.