Declaring India ‘Open Defecation-Free’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on removing single-use plastic and optimum use of water as next steps of the Swachh Bharat Mission, on the banks of the Sabarmati on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Today, villages in rural India have declared themselves open defecation free,” Modi said, adding that showed the strength of voluntary participation.

“Five years ago, when I had called for Swachchagraha from the ramparts of Lal Quila, we only had belief in people and the immortal message of Bapu,” Modi said. “Bapu used to say that bring in the change in yourself that you want to see in the world and we all picked up the broom and started with that mantra,” he added.

“Once, one used to hesitate to talk about toilet, but now toilet has become an important part of thought in the country,” Modi said, adding that the world has marveled at the feat India has achieved. The world is felicitating India for constructing more than 11 crore toilets in 60 months helping more than 60 crore people to use toilets.” Expressing satisfaction over the achievements so far, the PM said that while people have been encouraged to use toilets, now this habit needs to be made permanent and include those left behind. The event was attended by 10,000 sarpanchs from Gujarat and another 10,000 from other states, apart from representatives of Nigeria, Indonesia and Mali, heads of several foreign missions.

Modi stressed upon the need of water recharge and water recycle and pointed out that while the government has earmarked `3.5 lakh crore for the Jal Jeevan Mission, it is not possible to achieve success without active participation of the people.

Further he underlined the adverse impact of plastic on environment and reiterated that the country needed to be freed of single-use plastic by 2022.