Global Interfaith WASH Alliance ‘Summit’ begins
LEH: A two-day Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) summit that began here on Tuesday is being attended by eminent religious heads belonging to different religions and by political luminaries including Union Ministers Dr. Harshvardhan and Narendra Singh Tomar, J and K Minister Chering Dorjay Lakruk and Congress Legislative Party Leader Nawang Rigzin Jora besides hundreds of representatives from NGOs and educational institutions.
As GIWA was launched by UNICEF in 2013 at the United Nations General Assembly, the summit is being held with technical support from UNICEF.
“Thousands of precious little girls and boys in our nation are dying, often preventable deaths, simply because they don’t have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). 61 millions are suffering stunted growth and are failing to thrive. India has the largest number of children who don’t reach the age of five simply because they do not have access to WASH,” Chairman GIWA Ladakh Branch and Founder-President Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, Bhikkhu Sanghasena said.
Union Minister Drinking Water and Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar said the involvement of the religious leaders in sanitation campaigns like the Swachh Bharat Ahbyan will be more helpful as people have an acceptance towards the religious leaders. He, however, chose to avoid answers when asked about ground realities in Ladakh where streams – source of drinking water for many villages in Ladakh – are being polluted with human wastes because of lack of proper and hygienic toilets with the military establishments and migrant labourers’ camps.
Union Minister Dr Harsvardhan blamed AAP government for the current state of affairs with the Delhi sanitation. “The problem is AAP is busy spreading propaganda against the Prime Minister,” the Minister accused. He said that over 2 crore toilets have been built by Government of India in the villages over the last two years under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Minister Chering Dorjay presented vote of thanks.
While Swami Chidanand Saraswati, co-founder of GIWA, asked Ladakhi children to agent of change and promote proper sanitation and hygiene.
Congress leader Nawang Rigzin Jora raised concerns about the nation being divided on ideological grounds. “In Wembley Stadium in London our Prime Minister said ‘Multiculturalism is the soul of India’ and I would like the Prime Minister to say the same thing here in India now,” Jora said while asserting that the only commonality among all Indians of different cultural and religious background is ‘Indianness’.
“The country is not a ‘Jagir’ of a particular community. It is made of Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists,” Jora warned. He added that ‘when there is no sense of security there is no meaning of development’.
A five-point resolution that the summit passed to urge the Prime Minister included inclusion of Bhoti language in the Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution, opening of Kailash Mansarover from Ladakh, affordable airfare for Ladakhis by reshaping the existing airfare norms, holistic development of areas located on Pakistan and Chinese borders and recruitment of Ladakhi women in the Ladakh Scouts.
The two-day summit consists of mass Sarva Dharma and Sadbhavana (Interfaith Harmony and Cleanliness) followed by interactions and dialogues with local stake holders to discuss ways in which the Swachh Ladakh, Swachh Bharat vision can come to fruition.