Cut the filth, Vidya's coming

Amit Bhelari

Patna, Nov. 5: Vidya Balan will be in Bihar later this month to help clean up the state's "dirty picture".

The actress is the brand ambassador of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, a campaign of the Union rural development and drinking water and sanitation ministries to promote not-so-glamorous issues like sanitation and hygiene.

The Centre had announced earlier this year its goal to end open defecation within 10 years. More than half the households in India still don't have toilets and the families have to defecate in the open. In Bihar, the figure is 70 per cent.

As part of the mission, the ministry launched a travelling road show on October 5 to take the campaign across the country. The yatra started at the Gandhi ashram at Sevagram in Wardha (Maharashtra) and, after travelling 2,000km across places like Indore, Gwalior and Kota, will end at Bettiah in West Champaran, where Mahatma Gandhi had launched his Satyagraha movement.

Gandhi, whose mantra was "cleanliness is next to godliness", had laid the foundation for a rural sanitation movement by calling for the liberation of scavengers and speaking up for public hygiene across the country. Even after 65 years of independence, open defecation leads to the deaths of many children from diarrhoea.

Since becoming the face of the campaign a couple of months ago, Vidya has been appearing in radio and television advertisements urging villagers to use toilets. In one of the ads, the actress, known for her bold roles, notes that brides in India are too shy to lift their veils, leave alone defecate in the open.

West Champaran district magistrate Sridhar Chiruvolu confirmed Vidya's trip. "Yes, I have got confirmation about the visit of Vidya Balan and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. They are coming to Bettiah (the district headquarters) to conclude the sanitation campaign."

Chiruvolu said the actress was expected either on November 17 or 18. "It is a four-day campaign from November 16 to19 for which several programmes have been lined up," he said. "The main function is scheduled for November 17 and 18 when nukkad nataks (road theatres), road shows and a photo-exhibition will be held. Stalls will also be put up with information on sanitation. We are targeting school and college students and want to make them aware about the issue."

Chief minister Nitish Kumar is expected to join the campaign once he returns from his Pakistan tour on November 16.

The DM said Vidya would add a dash of glamour to the campaign. "The involvement of a Bollywood actress will surely have an impact."