Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday declared India an open defecation-free country while addressing a gathering on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad. “Today, the entire world is appreciating and awarding us. Providing toilets to more than 60 crore people in 60 months, building more than 11 crore toilets, the world is amazed by this,” Modi said at the Swachh Bharat Divas programme.
“Today, rural India and its villages have declared themselves 'open defecation free',” he added.
Making the remarks at two separate public events, Modi also said a glimpse of the respect India has globally was seen during the 'HowdyModi' event in Houston.
Speaking at an event organised by BJP's state unit to felicitate him for his speech at the UN General Assembly, Modi said the world can see that India is at the forefront of several positive changes taking place globally.
"Respect for India is increasing all over. One can experience the change," he added.
"The strength and the value of Indian passport has increased. The world sees those holding Indian passport with respect," Modi said.
Modi said the recent 'HowdyModi' event in the US has become a talking point among world leaders he met after that programme.
"The fact that US President Donald Trump came to the Indian event and stayed there for such a long time was great.
After speeches, when I requested him, he came for a round of stadium without considering security protocol. I thank him and all those who organised the event," Modi said.
"In a way, the world is looking at India with great eagerness. The world was curious about India, a huge country with a vibrant democracy and it is hopeful that India's participation will be most significant whenever there are opportunities to bring about global changes," he said.
Modi made the declaration by pressing the button of a remote, unveiling the map of India as open defection-free.
Modi said sanitation, conservation of environment and animals were dear to Gandhiji. "Plastic is a major threat to all of them, so we have to achieve the goal to eradicate 'single-use plastic' from the country by 2022," he said.
"Today, rural India has declared itself open defection-free. This is a great achievement of the Swachh Bharat movement which has people's participation," Modi said, addressing village heads of 20,000 villages in the country.
"On the call of Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom movement, people of the country mobilised for 'satyagarah' and they did the same now for swachhagrah, Modi said.
He also penned his thoughts in the visitors' book.
"I'm satisfied that on the occasion of #GandhiAt150, we're witnessing the fulfillment of his dream of 'Swachh Bharat'. I feel lucky that on this occasion when India has successfully stopped open defecation, I'm here at the ashram," Modi wrote.
Earlier in the day, Modi paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram. Modi paid floral tributes, visited the museum there, interacted with students and also went to Gandhis house called Hriday Kunj inside the Ashram.
Modi also penned his thoughts in the visitors' book. He spent around 20 minutes at the Ashram. He was accompanied by Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
Gandhi established the Ashram in 1917 after his return from South Africa and stayed there till 1930. He also embarked on the 'Dandi yatra' from the venue in 1930 saying that he will return to the Ashram only after India gains independence.
(With PTI inputs)