2nd October 2018, New Delhi
During the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Cultural Centre in Delhi, the Honourable Prime Minister, Sri. Narendra Modi, and Mr. António Guteres, General Secretary of the United Nations, presented Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) with an award for the largest contribution to the Swacch Bharat Kosh since the Clean India Campaign began four years back: Rs. 100 crores ($14 million U.S.). The amount was used to build toilets for the poor living along the banks of the Ganges.
Speaking from the dais, the Prime Minister thanked Amma for the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s dedicated service to cleanliness and environmental protection. He said, “I especially offer my pranams to respected Amma because ever since we started this work, Amma has taken this campaign very proactively on her own shoulders. Inspired by various great people and humanitarian leaders like Amma, this campaign has gained immense strength and has transformed from being a campaign into a mass movement.”
The Prime Minister also thanked Amma for traveling to Delhi for the event, saying, “In this event marking the beginning of the 150th birth-anniversary celebrations of Bapuji, it is a matter of great joy that Amma was able to find the time to come here in person, adding glory and prestige to this entire function.”
A video about Amma and her ashram’s cleanliness projects was played during the convention. In the video, Amma said, “As soon as we wake up in the morning, we brush our teeth. Environmental cleanliness is just like that. It’s for our own health and wellbeing. If we clean a sewage canal with the right attitude, even that becomes service to God. In Sanatana Dharma, the Creator and the creation are not two different things. Cleanliness is the most important thing.”
In addition to the Prime Minister and UN General Secretary, others gracing the dais included: Uma Bharti, Minister of Drinking Water & Sanitation; Susham Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs; Ramesh Jigajinagi, Union Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation; Manoj Sinha, Minister of Communication and Minister of State for Railways; and Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister of State with Independent Charge in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The Regional Vice President of the World Bank, the Executive Director of UNICEF, ministerial delegations from more than 50 countries, and top leaders from the Government of India were also in attendance.
In 2015, when Amma presented the Math’s cheque for the Rs. 100 crores to Arun Jaitely, the Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs said, “This Rs. 100 crore has more than a material relevance. Rs. 100 crore is a substantial amount when it comes from a single institution. But it gains more importance when a saint of eminence as Amma takes the first step then it sends a message across the country.”
Under Amma’s guidance, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and its worldwide component, Embracing the World, have taken environmental protection as one of their primary aims for decades. Aside from the Rs. 100 crore donation, the Math has also constructed 12,000 toilets for the poor in Kerala and has an on-going programme wherein it trains women in basic plumbing and masonry so that they can build not only their own toilets but toilets for others as well.
Amma’s volunteers have planted more than one million trees throughout the world, and the Math annually organises approximately 1,700 cleanliness drives as part of the Amala Bharatam Campaign it launched in 2010. Its volunteers also have cleaned the famous Sabarimala Temple and Pampa River annually since 2011.
Through education campaigns in Amma’s 101 adopted Amrita SeRVe villages, the Math has helped 16 villages throughout India attain Open Defecation Free status. Women in these villages have also been trained to make Saukhyam Sanitary Pads—a reusable, biodegradable, cotton-and-banana-fibre feminine-hygiene product aimed at reducing plastic waste. The Math is also currently involved in a self-financed Rs. 100-crore project called “Jivamritam,” wherein it is providing free water-filtration systems to 5,000 rural village centres throughout India, with the goal of providing water purification to one crore villagers.
The Math and its institutions have won numerous awards for their Green Initiatives, including Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Coimbatore campus gaining the No. 1 rank in the “Technical Institutions” category in the Swachhta Rankings 2017 and 2018, the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences & Research Centre in Kochi being awarded the Kerala State Pollution Control Board’s “Excellence Award” in 2017, and MAM’s JSS group in Sivakasi being award the Swachhta Puruskar 2018 for most outstanding performance of a skill institute in contributing most significantly to the Skill Se Sampurn Swacchta Campaign.