NEW DELHI: President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday underlined the need to assign panchayats a crucial role in spreading hygiene and inculcate sanitation as a habit among children to raise a healthy generation.

Addressing a function organised by the Drinking Water and Sanitation Department under the Ministry of Rural Development, the President said a clean village was as important as a productive village and exhorted that sanitation issues were as important as development issues.

Award for total sanitation

Ms. Patil gave away Nirmal Gram Puraskar to 21 gram panchayats and one block panchayat for attaining total sanitation, free of open defecation.

She said involvement of panchayats in developmental programmes ensured better implementation of schemes at the ground level and prescribed constant and vigorous exercises to impart proper training to panchayat members. The need is to use the panchayats as knowledge kiosks for creating awareness.

Focus on sanitation

Ms. Patil underlined the need to focus on the sanitary needs of women, adolescent girls in villages and infants and children. To take the sanitation programme forward she suggested appointing women as “ambassadors of sanitation.”

The anganwadi workers should be motivated to make children adopt good sanitary habits. Similarly, schools should work to inculcate sanitation and hygiene habits in students.

“Health and good hygiene behaviour at an early stage in children can ensure a generational change.”

Children should be taught that toilets are part of the house and the school and it must have the same level of cleanliness as in the rest of the house and the classroom, Ms. Patil said and suggested hygienic practice for the use of toilets as they were used by others too.

“When you leave it after use, leave it clean for the next user. You should not feel hesitant in cleaning the toilet.”

Underscoring that about 1,000 children die every day due to diarrhoea-related diseases, Ms. Patil called for integrating hygiene issues into the fields of public health policies, education and community welfare.

New programme

Union Minister of Rural Development Vilasrao Deshmukh announced a new programme to attain a personal hygiene and solid and liquid management goal in rural areas by 2022.