Former cricketer V.V.S. Laxman, badminton coach Pullela Gopichand and popular actor Pawan Kalyan are among 18 Telugu personalities from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh nominated by the central government as ambassadors for the “Swachh Bharat” drive.
Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu announced their being designated as ambassadors at a function held in Hyderabad on Monday. Majority of the personalities were present and assured their full support to the clean India campaign.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter and Member of Parliament K. Kavitha was among nine people nominated from the state.
The only leader to be nominated from Andhra Pradesh is industrialist-turned-politician Galla Jayadev, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP from Guntur.
Young actor Nitin, actress Amala Nagarjuna, famous singer S.P. Balasubramaniam, and lyricist Suddala Ashok Teja are the film personalities in the list.
Eminent filmmaker Raghavendra Rao, though not named as ambassador, was present to declare support to the campaign.
Former test cricketer and interim president of BCCI Shivlal Yadav, chess champion Koneru Humpy, industrialists B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, J.A. Chowdary, J. Rameswara Rao and G.V.K. Reddy, physicians Gopi Chand and G.S. Rao and journalist Vemuri Radhakrishna are the other ambassadors nominated by Naidu.
Naidu said the Telugu icons were free to select their areas of choice for taking up the campaign and also to take it forward with their ideas.
The 18 ambassadors will nominate nine ambassadors each and they in turn will name nine each to carry forward the programme.
Naidu said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to make “Swachh Bharat” a people’s movement by involving people from all walks of life.
He told the gathering that he had already held talks with spiritual leaders of all communities and representatives of trade and industry, sports, film industry and other sectors.
Noting that 68 percent of people in India still go for open defecation, Naidu said the task of cleanliness was huge and can be accomplished only with the participation of people.
The minister quoted a World Bank report that the cost of inadequate sanitation is 6.4 percent of GDP or $54 billion. “In other words, every poor citizen in this country has to bear an additional expenditure of Rs.6,500 every year,” he said.
He said the central government was trying to create awareness and change the mindset of the people and develop infrastructure like toilets, sewerage, drainage system and solid waste management.
Naidu claimed that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is ready to help in sanitation in a big way. “He told me that money is not the problem, mindset is the problem,” he said.
He said he recently amended Delhi building bylaws to make it compulsory for business establishments, advocates, doctors and other to provide toilets for visitors and clients.
Similarly, it will be mandatory for hotels to convert their waste into energy. Naidu plans to write letters to the states to frame similar rules.
Naidu, however, said regulations to stop open defecation and ensure cleanliness will be made only after creating awareness and infrastructure.
Former test cricketer Laxman said it is the moral responsibility of every citizen to keep their surroundings clean the way they keep their homes clean. “If we have to make transformation, it has to be at the grass root level,” he said.
On this occasion, Naidu announced Rs.20 crore for Telangana and Rs.10 crore for Andhra Pradesh as token allocation from the central government for undertaking the “Swachh Bharat” campaign.