GIWA Bihar Summit: Sarva Dharma Swachhta Sadbhavana Sankalp
Over twenty prominent interfaith leaders of India’s major faiths joined hands together with HE the Governor of Bihar and other distinguished dignitaries to pledge togetherness for a Swachh Bharat and a Swachh Bihar at a special Summit today held by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) with technical support of UNICEF. The Summit, called the Sarva Dharma, Swachhta Evam Sadbhavna, was organized with the aim of ushering in a Swachhta Kranti (clean revolution) through the coming together of prominent faith leaders, policy-makers, corporate leaders, civil society and media. Together, the dignitaries fostered inspiration towards taking actions to ensure safe, sustainable and healthy water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for all.
Nearly 600 million people in India are not using toilets, and in Bihar, only 0.79 per cent of the state’s villages are open-defecation free. At the same time, Bihar’s coverage under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme is at 46.64 per cent, which is much lower than the national average. This leads to countless instances of stunted growth, poor health and untimely deaths, with children being the worst affected. Every 40 seconds, a child perishes because of the diseases spread by the lack of toilets.
The faith leaders and distinguished dignitaries came together in support of the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission and the state’s Har Ghar Nal ka Jal and Ghar ka Samman – Shauchalaya Nirman programmes. In showing their unified pledge, they strove to send a loving message that all people, everywhere must now come together to realize a clean and green Bihar.
At the time, they also announced plans for a new GIWA Chapter for the State of Bihar. The Chapter will add to the ongoing efforts in the state, and support acceleration of progress in achieving the Water and Sanitation goals in the state through programmes such as its World Toilet College and other outreach initiatives.
Said HE Governor Ram Nath Kovind “It’s a blessing that I have the good opportunity to serve in Bihar during the auspicious occasion of the 350th Prakash Parv of Shri Guru Gobind Snghji. It is particularly a blessing to be here for the Sarva Dharma Swachhta Evam Sadbhavana Sankalp. I strongly believe that interfaith harmony is the essence of Indian spiritual-cultural heritage. Hence, its so beautiful to see the faith traditions organized here, under the leadership of GIWA India’s Founder, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, bringing everyone together for the vital task of providing clean water, safe and sufficient sanitation and hygiene for all.”
Said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Founder/Chair, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance India and President, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh: “Today time has come to make our festivals, clean and green festivals. No longer can we allow 1600 children perish every day because of poor water, sanitation and hygiene. However, there could not be a more powerful message of oneness and our commitment to this vital cause then all faith leaders coming together, with our Most Respected Chief Jathedarji of Akal Takht and Patna Saheb Jathedarji, coming together to bless this cause. I am sure together we can change the state of Bihar to truly reflect the gem of spirituality and culture that it is, making possible a clean and green Bihar for all.”
Said Sant Giani Gurubachan Singh, Chief Jathedar of Akal Takht (the Golden Temple), “Clean water, sanitation and environment important for everyone. Our scriptures have always given the great importance to cleaniness but time has come that we take and apply these messages into every aspect of our lives.”
Said Sant Giani Iqbal Singhji, Jathedar of Takht Patna Saheb, “Cleaniness is the need of this country. Our scriptures have always spoke about keeping our water clean. I appreciate the efforts of GIWA, under Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji’s leadership, toward this cause. I look forward to contnual support to these efforts in Patna, Bihar.”
Said Asadur Rahman, Chief Field Officer, Bihar. “Government of Bihar is practicing exceptional leadership for improving WASH but still more has to be done: 70% rural population practice open defecation. Hence, I strongly believe that in order to achieve SDG 6 we need to make WASH everybody’s business, religiously. Collective power of faith leaders, govt, corporate, media can support the sanitation movement in Bihar for a fair start for every child.”
Said Lama Lobsang, Secretary General, International Buddhist Confederation, President, Asoka Mission, India “Good hygiene is very important for good health and India needs better hygiene.”
Said Respected Jain Leader Acharya Lokesh Muni shared 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. I personally am.”
In his concluding remarks, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, said: “I am so proud of the efforts of our Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Nitesh Kumarji, and I am certain that his tenacious efforts during the Prakash Parv will bring the light of a cleaner and greener Bihar for all.”
Some of GIWA’s Revered Faith Leaders Present at the Summit included: Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance India, Sant Giani Gurbachan Singh, Jathedar of Akal Takht (The Golden Temple), Maulana Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, President of the All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques, Acharya Lokesh Muni, the Founder of Ahimsa Vishwa Bharati, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General of GIWA, Lama Lobsung, Asoka Mission, Dr. Kiranjot Kaur, Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Paramjit Singh Chandhokji, Kuldeep Singh Bhogal and many others. Other Distinguished Dignitaries Included: HE Governor Ramnath Kovind of Bihar, Hon’ble Shri KNP Verma, Bihar Minister for Public Health Egineering, Hon’be Shri Arvind Choudhary, Bihar Secretary for Rural Development, Shri Asadur Rahman, Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Bihar, and others.