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    91 districts free of open defecation, says minister

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    Union Minster for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said that a total 91 districts in the country were declared free of open defecation.

    “Total 91 districts, including 1,56,219 villages, have been declared Open Defecation Free. Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Sikkim have already become ODF states,” he said.

    “Corporates, cleanliness ambassadors, NGOs are taking part in the cleanliness drive actively and we expect man power of 600 people will be available very soon,” Tomar, who is also the Minister for Panchayati Raj, and Drinking Water & Sanitation, said told media here.

    Parameshwaran Iyer, Secretary of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, said that five more states were expected to achieve ODF status by the end of this year.

    These states are Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Mizoram.

    According to the ministry, at least 3.32 crore toilets have been built since October 2014 when ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission was launched.

    “The cleanliness coverage has been increased from 42 per cent in 2014 to 60 per cent now,” Tomar added.

    Tomar also spoke about the Rs 25,000 crore National Water Quality Sub Mission, which aimed at improving quality of drinking water in four years.

    “People at 66,693 habitations are affected due to fluoride, arsenic, nitrate, iron in water. Our aim is to provide potable water across the country but the situation is of concern at some places in the country. We are in talks with the state governments for the mission,” Tomar said.

    Rural Development Department Secretary Amarjeet Sinha said that the average length of 133 km roads was built daily under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana — the scheme to provide all-weather road connectivity to unconnected villages.

    “Under the scheme, we have built roads of 35,668 km length so far and we are confident that the target of 48,812 km will be achieved by end of this financial year. Rather, we end up building more roads than the target,” Sinha said.

    Sinha added that about 44 lakh homes for poor will be construed by end of December.

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