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VOA慢速英语新闻:印度总理发起清洁运动

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India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has started a nationwide campaign to clean up the country and provide toilets to all homes by 2019. The effort is called the "Clean India" campaign, but it will not be an easy task. Many of the country's major cities struggle to deal with garbage because of poor waste removal systems. And, more than 50 percent of the people in India do not have access to toilets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently spoke to tens of thousands of schoolchildren and government officials in New Delhi. He asked that they promise to spend two hours every week cleaning up the country.

He asked people to make a promise to themselves, their families, neighborhoods, workplaces and villages to help with the effort.

Ministers, lawmakers and school leaders also picked up brooms and trash cans to sweep streets and clear garbage. They hoped to bring attention to the issue of better sanitation. Traditionally in India, cleaning is considered a task to be done by people in a lower social class or caste.

Mr. Modi urged India's 1.25 billion people to turn the cleanliness effort into a social campaign.

He said it takes time to change old habits, or ways of doing things. But, if everyone helps to form a mass movement, he said, then India too will be counted among the world's clean countries.

Mr. Modi began the "Clean India" campaign on the birth anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi. He had called good sanitation more important than independence. Mr. Gandhi urged his followers not to associate cleaning with something only done by people of a lower class.

Another important part of the campaign will be to build toilets. Studies suggest more than half of Indians expel bodily waste outside. This can spread diseases like diarrhea. And, women are exposed to the risk of sexual attack when they go into the fields after dark. A World Bank study estimates that poor sanitation costs India $54 billion in treatments for illnesses, early deaths and lost work time.

But some critics wonder how Prime Minister Modi will reach his goal of cleaning up India and providing toilets to all Indian homes by 2019. That year marks Mohandas Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.

Critics say the problems are complex. For example, building toilets is not the only problem. In rural India, there is opposition to using them. Many people living in those areas believe having a toilet in or near their homes is unclean.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

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