New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday was conferred the ‘Global Goalkeeper’ award in New York on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meeting for his considerable efforts in tackling cleanliness and sanitation under the banner of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ launched by his government.

The award, a part of Bill and Melinda Foundation, was presented to him by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Accepting the award, PM Modi said that the award does not only belong to him but it is a shared honour between him and crores of Indian citizens who contributed to the success of the government’s cleanliness programme.

Receiving the award on Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary year held significance for the Prime Minister, as he said that when 130 crore people take a pledge, any challenge can be overcome.

PM Modi said that nearly 3 lakh people have benefitted by the campaign as it has saved as many people from diseases caused due to poor sanitation and open defecation. He added that the Swachh Bharat Mission has also helped a number of girls go to school, who were earlier forced to quit education because their schools did not have toilets.

Meanwhile, according to reports, the Gates Foundation also received backlash from several activists and critics for presenting the award to the Indian Prime Minister as even though Modi has brought cleanliness into the political discourse in India, there still remains a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality.

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, launched by the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), started during its first term in 2014. The cleanliness and sanitation drive began on October 2, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, paying homage to his teachings.

Notably, on August 15 this year, PM Narendra Modi announced a ban on single-use plastic products that will be effective starting October 2.