The Kumbh Mela witnessed an unusual sight of religious harmony when Hindu sadhus rubbed shoulders with bishops, Sikh jatthedars, Buddhist monks and Muslim imams in Ujjain on Tuesday to pass a unanimous resolution of making India free of open defecation.
In an inter-faith summit organised by Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Parmarth Trust, Haridwar, and Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), various religious leaders have participated.
Chidananda Sarswati said, “The world is as we dream it, and it is time for a new dream. Every day, 1,200 children die needlessly in India due to lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. The deaths are a result of our bad habits. We can change that. By changing our ways, we change the world.”
According to UNICEF, nearly 600 million people in India do not have toilets. It is estimated that a child dies every 20 seconds, as a result of poor sanitation.
In the state of Madhya Pradesh alone, 67 per cent of the population defecates in the open. In rural areas, it is as high as 80 per cent.
Madhya Pradesh, India’s second largest state, contributes to about 8 per cent of the instances of open defecation in the country.
Speaking in the summit Swami Avdheshanand Girij, who has massive following in north India, said, “Water is the most basic requirement of all life but only 0.75 per cent is potable therefore it is crucial to conserve water.”
“Every religion honours the element of water hence it is beautiful that prominent members from all faiths have come together here on the banks of Kshipra to move in the right direction.’’
Imam Umar Ilyasi, President of All India Imam Organisation, pledged to bring all of India’s Imams together to spread vital messages on the importance of health, water, sanitation and hygiene.
“All faiths must come together to promote an end to open-defecation and a clean and healthy India, because cleanliness, purity and respect for nature are embedded in every religion.”
Maulana Dr Syed Kalbe Sadiq, Founder of Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust, said, “From today onwards, let our dreams become reality. Our hands should be tools for action. In our hearts should be pledges for change.”
Jain Acharya Lokesh Muni sais that ahimsa (non-violence) and sanitation must be seen as going hand-in-hand. “Unclean choices are causing the deaths of countless children every day. This suffering must end. It is up to all of us to be the change.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, secretary-general GIWA, said, “GIWA is founded on the principle that as faith leaders, we must expand our definition of peace to include ensuring clean water, sanitation and hygiene to all people.