Dr. Muzaffar Husain Ghazali
Leh, Ladakh, 30th August, 2016 - The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) India, in association with UNICEF India, held a two-day Summit in Ladakh, entitled the ‘Worship for WASH’. The Ladakh Summit initiates a dialogue on critical issues of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health), specifically in the Ladakh region. The Summit discussed the inter-linkage of multiple issues of inequity, lack of access and other related issues in the region, with special focus on minority populations.
Speaking at the summit, the convener of the programme, Founder of GIWA India and the President of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati Ji said, “GIWA’s faith leaders have come together on this sacred land of Ladakh, in a state surrounded by borders, to inspire us and encourage us to make our hearts and our minds truly borderless. Today we come together as a testament that we are one and there is so much that connects and binds us. In this spirit of oneness we must pledge that no longer should children have to perish from lack of WASH, no longer should women have to wait for the darkness of night to heed the call of nature. No longer should we as a nation have the largest number of people who perish from diarrhea and who defecate in the open, due to lack of basic sanitation facilities such as toilets.”
The “Sarva Dharma Swachhta Evam Sadbhavna Sankalp” (Interfaith Pledge for Clean Ladakh, Clean India) on the evening of the 29thAugust, the first day of the Ladakh summit brought together over 700 people- faith leaders, corporates, media and the local stakeholders at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies at Leh. The Hon’ble Union Minister of Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan and the Hon’ble Union Minister for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water & Sanitation Shri Narendra Singh Tomar graced the occasion and inaugurated the Summit.
“Science and technology has also supported Swachh Bharat Mission all along the way by innovation and research, like waste management, toilet technology, means of water purification and plastic re-use. S&T is behind you in this mission and we have shown that waste can be turned into wealth”, said the Hon’ble Dr Harsh Vardhan, addressing the gathering on the first day.
Speaking on the occasion Hon’ble Shri Narendra Singh Tomar said, “I thank Pujya Swamiji on behalf of the Government of India for taking up this issue of sanitation amongst faith leaders. Here we have 25 faith leaders on the stage, but there influence and trust reaches crores of people. I have great hope for Leh, which is only 2400 houses short of becoming completely Open Defecation Free (ODF). Hence, it will become the 18th district to be declared ODF and this is indeed a great opportunity.”
Manish Wasuja, WASH Expert from UNICEF India spoke about Sanitation challenges and the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
“The Swachh Bharat Mission has made significant progress with community participation. There are 564 million people defecating in the open. GIWA is an important platform to communicate the messages on toilet use as there are 98% people in India that follow any faith”, said Mr. Wasuja.
Also present on the occasion were spiritual heads from major religions of India- including Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji Chief Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Diwan Zainul Abedin Ji of the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Maulana Dr Syed Kalbe Sadiq Ji Shia Leader from Lucknow, Maulana Luqman Tarapuri Ji Sunni Leader of the Global Imam Council, Mahamandaleshwar Swami Harichetanand Ji, Lama Lobzang Ji Buddhist spiritual leader- President of the Asoka Mission Delhi and many others (please see the list attached). The faith leaders inspired everyone in an unprecedented and historic Sarva Dharam Swachhta Sankalp (Interfaith Cleanliness Pledge) on the occasion.
Giani Gurbachan Singh Ji said, “The water, air and earth are polluted in this pure land. We have polluted them by interfering with nature. Therefore, let us resolve to dedicate 5-10 minutes daily to cleanliness.”
Maulana Dr Syed Kalbe Sadiq Ji, emphasised, “When faith leaders come together not along differences but work together for a common cause for the betterment of humanity, then we can have clean communities and clean India. Today, we call upon everyone to be the change and start with themselves to ensure a Swachh Bharat.”
Maulana Luqman Tarapuri emphasised, “Islam stresses on the importance of water. The issue of hygiene is a fundamental practice and foundation for all Muslims. With the GIWA Platform, we wish to take the message to every corner of the country and to every mosque.”
Lama Lobzang- Buddhist spiritual leader- President of the Asoka Mission, said, “Ladakh is a unique land. Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat takes on a whole new meaning here. Open defecation and the lack of toilets is not a major issue here. However, water scarcity is a pressing issue.”
The delegation is visiting various places of worship of different faiths on the second day of the Summit (30th August) in the morning and will conclude the day and the Summit with a special ceremony on the banks of the Sindhu river.
The visionary act of all faith leaders visiting each spiritual location, including the Moravian Church, Ladakh Buddhist Association Monastery, Masjid Sharif, Imam Bara, Krishna Temple, Pathar Sahib Gurudwara and the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, emphasised their commitment to the cause of bringing a sanitation revolution in India.
Please find a list of some of the prominent leaders present at the event:
- Hon’ble Union Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Harsh Vardhanji
- Hon’ble Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation Shri Narendra Singh Tomarji
- Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Co-Founder, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, President, ParmarthNiketan (Rishikesh)
- Sant Giani Gurubachan Singhji, Chief Jathedar of Akal Takht (The Golden Temple)
- Diwan Zainul Abedin Ali Khanji, Religious Head and Sajjada Nasheen of the Ajmer Sharif Shrine
- Maulana Kalbe Sadiq Sahebji, Founder of TauheedulMuslimeen Trust, Islamic scholar (Shia Leader)
- Maulana Imam Luqman Tarapuriji, Global Imam Council, India (Sunni Leader)
- Manaiya Indresh Kumarji, Senior RSS Leader
- Lama Lobzang, Secretary General, International Buddhist Confederation, President, Asoka Mission, India
- HE Choje Togden Rinpoche, Master of the Drikung Kagyu
- Bhaisahib Satpal Singh Khalsaji, Ambassador of Sikh Dharma (Religion)
- Pujya Mahamandeleshwar Swami Harichetanandji, Haridwar
- Mushahid Khan, Chairman and Founder of International Islamic Sufi Foundation
- Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary- General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, President, Divine Shakti Foundation
- Dr HR Nagendraji, Vice Chancellor VYASA
- Ven Bhikkhu Sanghasenaji, Founder-
President Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre
- Shri Paramjit Singh Chandhokji, Chairman of DSGMC
- Swamini Adityananda Saraswatiji, Director of Programmes, Partnerships & Policy, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
- Dr Binny Sareenji, Brahmakumaris, Mt Abu
- Swami Jayantji, Art of Living, Bangalore
- Shri Tsering Dorjay, Hon’ble Minister of State of Cooperative and MoS Ladakh Affairs
- Manish Wasuja, WASH Specialist, UNICEF- India
- Sonia Sarkar, Communications Officer, UNIC EF-India
- Sheikh Saif-ud Din, President of Maoin-ul Islam
- Shri Ashraf Ali, President of Anjuman Immammia
- Shri Nawang Rigzen Jora, MLA
- Shri Dorjay Mutup, Executive Councilor Works and Power
- Murup Dolma, President of Ladakhi Women’s Alliance and many other interfaith leaders, members of UNICEF, corporate heads and many other international and national NGOs, business leaders and prominent media personalities