THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala on Tuesday became an Open Defecation-Free (ODF) state and the first densely-populated state to achieve the title.
The official declaration was made by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a function held in the capital marking the 60th anniversary of the state’s formation.
“Our state has always stood out when compared to other states. The Prime Minister has appreciated our recent achievement during his radio programme,” said Pinarayi in his ODF declaration speech.
Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh were earlier declared Open Defecation Free. The Chief Minister spoke about the challenge of retaining the title. Scarcity of water, difficult to change habits etc. were cited by the Chief Minister as factors that could lead to open defecation.
The state has built 1,74,720 toilets in three months in rural areas to achieve the ODF tag. The Chief Minister said that a monitoring committee under Local Self-Government Department should be entrusted with the task of monitoring the process to ensure that these toilets are functioning. He also stressed the need to construct more public toilets to meet the needs of growing migrant labourers in the urban area, an ODF target that has to be reached by coming March.
The state would request the Central Government to address the issue of open toilets in trains. “The state cannot achieve ODF tag when Railways continue to have open toilets. The Centre has to do something about it,” said the Chief Minister.
Pinarayi also spoke about the next steps to be taken up by the state with popular participation. “An ODF state is only the first stage. We need to ensure that our homes, schools, offices are kept clean. Water is no longer a luxury for us. We need to clean and rejuvenate our water bodies,” he said.
The grand ODF declaration function was attended by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, Ministers K T Jaleel, E Chandrasekharan, Thomas Isaac, Mathew T Thomas, C Raveendranath, A K Saseendran, Kadannappally Ramachandran and Kadakampally Surendran; MPs, MLAs, heads of local bodies, Chief Secretary S M Vijayanand, Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary Parameswaran Iyer and Executive Director of Suchitwa Mission K Vasuki, among others.