NEW DELHI - Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari Sept 15 said the government will give the highest priority to ending open defecation. Saying that India accounts for about 60 percent of open defecation in the world, he added that his ministry had sought suggestions from people on the issue and a detailed project will be announced. Addressing the media here on the completion of three months of his ministry,
Gadkari said drinking water schemes in states that face power shortage and some that are Maoist-affected were being linked to solar energy. "There are problems concerning electricity in many states. We have decided to link drinking water schemes to solar energy," he said. He said technology was available for purifying water at cheap rates and unemployed youths in villages could be involved in the task of distributing purified water. "Maximum diseases in villages are due to water," he said, adding that hydro-geo-morphological maps were being used to know the status of ground water. He also said that 17,000 villages in the country face water contamination. Without naming the Congress party, he said some chief ministers had given him suggestions contrary to the line taken by their party. Saying that people were using some rural toilets constructed under earlier government schemes as godowns, he said: "There is no use (of building toilet) without ensuring water supply." Gadkari said the ministry was working to realize the mission of Swachh Bharat by 2019. The minister said states which had a high growth rate of agriculture did not need the rural employment guarantee scheme.