Kanpur: President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday kickstarted the "Swachhta Hi Seva" campaign from Ishwariganj village of Kanpur — his home district — and administered the oath of cleanliness to the large gathering.
The President also honoured those who helped make Ishwariganj an open defecation-free (ODF) village.
"Construction of toilets is more important than temples," he said, adding that the cleanliness mission had brought about a new awakening among the people.
"Today, our country is fighting a decisive battle against uncleanliness. We have two years to achieve the targets of Swachh Bharat Mission. The 'Swachhta hi Seva' campaign is a nationwide attempt to strengthen this mission," Kovind said.
He said keeping the surroundings clean was not only the job of sanitation personnel and government departments but that of people as well.
"Cleaning is not only the responsibility of sanitation workers. Even Mahatma Gandhi tried to teach this point 100 years ago while he himself engaged in cleaning. He had said that till the time you will not pick up broom and bucket in your hands, you will not be able to clean your village and city," he said.
Kovind said insanitation was a curse for society and that illnesses caused by it cost as much as 6.4 percent of India's Gross Domestic Product.
Referring to Kanpur as his home, he mused how he found it a little discomforting to be welcomed in one's own home but added that he knew that this grand welcome was not for Ram Nath Kovind but the President of India.
"I have an emotional connect with Kanpur. I started my life from a small village in Kanpur Dehat (rural)," the President said.
Kovind also said the rich history of the city always inspired him and exhorted the people to make the city clean.
"We all have lived in villages and know the difficulties of not having toilets in home," he said while urging people to become a part of the campaign to make toilets at home.
Kovind also mentioned the 'have toilet' campaign by Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and said people should follow his request of "Darwaza band karo, beemari band".
In course of his address, he also hailed the efforts of another Bollywood star Akshay Kumar towards making India clean.
The Uttar Pradesh government will observe "Seva Diwas" (day of service) on September 17 and carry out a range of activities, including building cess-pit toilets, voluntary work and sanitation drives.