Minister Jairam Ramesh and Bollywood actress and sanitation ambassador Vidya Balan at the launch of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra sanitation campaign. Photo: UNI
In a cabinet reshuffle Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has been stripped of his additional post as Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation . His successor is Bharatsin Madhavsinh Solanki, a former railway minister and a Member of Parliament representing Gujarat’s Anand district.
News agency PTI reported that sources in Ramesh’s office were disappointed that their Minister was being replaced .
The Minister has been passionate about sanitation-related issues which he brought it in the limelight, they said, adding that Ramesh also managed to get additional funds to carry out the projects.
The Ministry of Rural Development has invited the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to partner with it in finding solutions to the sanitation problems in India, where 50 per cent of the country’s 1.1 billion people still practice open defecation.
Jairam Ramesh and Bill Gates, 30 May 2012. Photo: PTI
On the 2nd day of his visit to India, Bill Gates spoke with Rural Development Minister and the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh. The Minister called for the launch of a global joint initiative to develop low-cost, clean toilets for railways. In India, 11 million passengers commute daily without proper hygienic facilities. Mr. Ramesh also sought help from Gates to pilot sanitation promotion campaigns along the lines of India’s successful Pulse Polio campaign .
Jairam Ramesh. India's new sanitation crusader?
India’s new rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has also taken charge of the newly-created Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Will the former environmental crusader transform into a sanitation crusader? The first signals are encouraging.
In a cabinet reshuffle the new ministry position was first assigned to Gurudas Kamat who refused to take up the post for “personal reasons” though many commentators believe he was unhappy at being offered such a low-profile portfolio. The new water and sanitation ministry was formerly a department of the Ministry of Rural Development. It provides financial assistance to states and monitors progress but does not have the mandate for actual implementation on the ground.
In his first days in office, Ramesh has made clear he wants to give sanitation the same high profile he achieved for the environment during his two-year stint as minister when he habitually hogged the headlines.
“Sanitation is a single most important need in India today. If you look at the filth, if you look at the hygiene in our country, sanitation programme is the most important programme. It is severely under-funded,” Ramesh told PTI.