Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and the world’s fourth richest person, on Saturday, heaped praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the latter’s monthly radio program Mann Ki Baat completed its 100th episode.
What Happened: Gates commended the initiative for catalyzing community-led action on various issues, including sanitation, health, and women’s economic empowerment, which are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mann Ki Baat is a monthly radio programme initiated by PM Modi in October 2014 that aims to connect with the people of India and address various issues concerning the country.
The programme — broadcasted in various Indian languages, including Hindi, English and Tamil — has been a significant success since its inception. According to a recent report commissioned by state broadcaster Prasar Bharati, 23 crore people regularly listen to Mann Ki Baat and another 41 crore tune in casually.
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Why It Matters: Gates’ comments on Mann Ki Baat focused on sanitation aren’t surprising. Lack of sanitation facilities has been long linked to a high spread of various deadly diseases, including cholera and typhoid in the country.
The billionaire, through his philanthropic efforts, has been actively working towards the improvement of the sanitation sector in India.
His Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has introduced innovative solutions and technologies to tackle the problem, such as the Reinvented Toilet, a self-contained toilet that can treat human waste on-site and transform it into fertilizer. The non-profit organization has also been working towards improving access to clean water and promoting hygiene practices.
Improving sanitation has also been a major focus of the Modi government, through initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. According to World Bank data, the percentage of people practicing open defecation in India has reduced from a whopping 74% of the population in 2000 to 15% in 2020.
The prime minister declared India a defecation-free country in 2019 after announcing that over 11 crore toilets had been built in five years of his government being in power.
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