Prime Minister Narendra Modi will declare India open defecation free on Wednesday evening on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, PTI reported. A single-use plastic ban by several state governments and departments came into force in some parts of the country even as the Centre clarified no new order on the matter was issued.

Several events were lined up in Delhi and Gujarat to mark Gandhi Jayanti. The prime minister visited Rajghat – the resting place of Gandhi – and paid floral tributes. He also paid tributes to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.

“Tributes to beloved Bapu,” Modi tweeted. “On #Gandhi150, we express gratitude to Mahatma Gandhi for his everlasting contribution to humanity. We pledge to continue working hard to realise his dreams and create a better planet.”

In the evening, Modi will visit Ahmedabad. At the Sabarmati riverfront, he will declare the country open defecation free.

After launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India mission, in 2014, Modi had promised to make India open defecation free by October 2 this year. Last week, the prime minister was given an award by the Gates Foundation at a ceremony in New York for his efforts. The same day, two children were beaten to death in Madhya Pradesh for defecating on a street.

According to official data, Swachh Bharat has constructed more than a 100 million toilets for some of the poorest in the country, but problems in some areas still persist.

Also read: Killing of two Dalit children exposes failure of India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

At the ceremony in New York, Modi appreciated Indians’ contribution to the mission. “No such campaign was seen or heard about in any other country in the recent past,” he added. “It might have been launched by our government, but people took control of it.”

Single-use plastic

Modi told the 193-member United Nations General Assembly last week about India’s campaign to stamp out the use of single-use plastics. India approximately uses about 14 million tonnes of plastic annually, and lacks an organised system for managing plastic waste. This causes widespread pollution.

In his Independence Day speech in August, the prime minister had urged citizens to eliminate single-use plastic and use cloth and jute bags instead. He had urged authorities across the country to make arrangements for collecting plastic in the “first strong step” in the direction on October 2.

The government on Tuesday said it would ask states to enforce existing rules against storing, manufacturing and using some single-use plastic products such as polythene bags and styrofoam, Reuters reported. “There is no new ban order being issued,” said Chandra Kishore Mishra, a bureaucrat at the ministry of environment. “Now, it is a question of telling people about the ill-effects of plastic, of collecting and sending for recycling so people do not litter.”

Odisha in a notification issued on September 30 banned single-use plastic in all urban areas of the state from October 2, PTI reported. In August, the Indian Railways had also announced a ban on single-use plastic material across its network from October 2. The ban is also expected to come into force in Kolkata, and Hubbali in Karnataka.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat also prohibits the use of non-reusable plastic water bottles and other plastic items at Parliament House complex. According to the secretariat, it is “a step towards the call by the prime minister to the nation to make the country free from plastics”.

Also read: How a material that was supposed to revolutionise the future became a dreaded pollutant

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