Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Ph.D., D.Litt.
Sociologist & Social Reformer
Founder, Sulabh Sanitation Movement
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Video of Speech by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1Z-DGCsXRE
I join hands with Vaishnavi to once again extend my heartiest welcome to Hon’ble Smt. Meira Kumar, Speaker, Lok Sabha, Hon’ble Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development, Government of India, Hon’ble Shri Ajay Maken, Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India, Hon’ble Shri Bharatsinh Madhavsinh Solanki, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, Emeritus Professor Shri Yogendra Singh and all fellow sociologists, distinguished guests, friends from the print and the electronic media, new princesses from Alwar and Tonk, widows of Vrindavan and brothers and sisters. I am thankful to all of you for participating in the two day National Conference on Sociology of Sanitation which I am proposing as one of the disciplines to be included in the study of sociology. The inclusion of this subject as one of the disciplines will not only enlarge the scope of sociology but will also be helpful in solving the problems of society in relation to sanitation, social deprivation, water, public health, hygiene, poverty, gender equality, welfare of the children and empowering knowledge for sustainable development. As a sociologist, I have been working in these fields for more than four decades and on the basis of my experiences in this sphere coupled with my sociological knowledge, I have an idea that “Sociology of Sanitation” should be included in the discipline of sociology.
I took up sociology in 1961 as one of my subjects in Bachelor of Arts, Part-I in Patna University and later I opted for sociology as a subject in the Honours class. I wanted to be a lecturer in the Department of Sociology in Patna University but that dream remained unfulfilled due to vicissitudes of fortune. However, after passing my secondary school examination I did become a school teacher, did small jobs and finally I wanted to do M.Sc. in Criminology from Sagar University, Madhya Pradesh, but that too did not happen. However, that is a different story.
In the year 1968 by coincidence I joined the Bihar Gandhi Centenary Celebration Committee as a social worker. There I read the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi as well as other books related to him which had a profound influence and effect on me. The Gandhi Centenary Committee was formed in 1967 to celebrate the birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi which fell in the year 1969. This Committee had taken up numerous programmes one of which was to restore the human rights and dignity of untouchables who used to clean human excreta manually carrying it as headload for disposal and who were also referred to as human scavengers. Later on I came to know that this subhuman practice stemmed from the genesis of untouchability and had been continuing for the past nearly 5000 years through the Vedic, Buddhist, Mauryan, Mughal and British periods.
One day, while I was working in the office, the General Secretary of the Centenary Committee asked me to come and meet him. I went to see him and he asked me to sit down. After that he said “seeing your commitment and performance in this short period that you have worked with the Centenary Committee, I would advise you to engage yourself fully to fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi – his unfinished agenda to restore the human rights and dignity of untouchable scavengers. This will be the best tribute by the Centenary Committee to Mahatma Gandhi.” On this I replied, “how I can work with untouchables because I belong to the Brahmin caste.” I then narrated an incident of my childhood days. I told him, “A lady untouchable, at that time referred as “dom”, used to come to my house to deliver utensils made from bamboos and when she used to return back my grandmother used to sprinkle water up to the area which belonged to us in order to cleanse it. I was also curious as a child that many other people also used to come to my house but my grandmother did not do like this but why only with that particular lady every time she came to the house.
People used to tell me that she was an untouchable and whoever will touch her will be polluted. Being a curious child, when my grandmother was not around, I used to touch her to see whether I became polluted and there was any change of complexion of my body as a result of touching her. One day, by chance when the lady came to deliver the utensils and started returning, my grandmother, started her usual sprinkling of water and cleansing ritual, I touched the lady untouchable which my grandmother saw. She made a hue and cry and asked the neighbouring boys to come, catch hold of me and then she forced me to swallow cow dung and cow urine. Then she gave me Ganges water to drink in order to purify me. It was such a trauma in my childhood which I have never forgotten to this day. So how I can work with these untouchable human scavengers.” Secondly I told him, “Sir, I am a sociologist by background and furthermore I am not an engineer. Unless I give an alternative to bucket or dry toilets which are cleaned by human scavengers how I can ask people not to use these toilets.” The General Secretary heard me patiently but said “I do not know your caste or whether you are an engineer or not but by seeing your performance, your dedication as well as commitment in this short period that you have worked with us, I see light in you and strongly feel that you can fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi to bring the untouchables in the mainstream of the society on a par with others.” To this, I had no answer. I became sombre and quietly I left the place. My knowledge and insight of sociology which has instilled in me a multifaceted approach came to my help here for the first time. In research books of sociology it was taught to us, that if somebody wants to work for the cause of a community then first and foremost one has to build a rapport with the community to know in detail their attitudes, their lifestyle, their behaviour and to partake food etc. with them so that one could gather and come up with knowledge and information about the community in depth and in detail. Thus towards this end, to build up rapport with the untouchables I went and lived with them in the colony of untouchable human scavengers in Bettiah, Champaran, a small town in the State of Bihar for three months, coincidently the same place from where Mahatma Gandhi had started his freedom movement. While I was going to live with these untouchable human scavengers my father was both upset and sad, the Brahmin community turned against me and my father-in-law was very very angry with me. He was absolutely against my living with the untouchables in their habitat as also working in the sphere of sanitation and building toilets. I told him that my entire life has undergone a sea change and these are part of the processes now. I have now started turning over the pages of history of India so far untouchability is concerned.
Either I will be successful or I will get lost but I cannot just sit and watch. While living in the colony many incidents happened. I vividly recall two of them. One day on a fine morning there was a sudden hue and cry in the neighbourhood. I went and enquired. A newly married girl was weeping bitterly. She was being forced by her in-laws and even her husband himself to go to Bettiah town to clean the bucket toilets. She was crying bitterly and was not at all ready to go. I went and intervened. Her mother-in-law asked one question from me “If she doesn’t clean bucket toilets which is our profession, what she will do from tomorrow? If she sells vegetables who will buy from her hands. She has no alternative and is destined to do this job for her whole life.” At that time I had no answer.
This was certainly a very very tragic situation that a person once born as an untouchable will die as an untouchable. There is no scheme for these untouchables to escape from the social prison where they have to remain imprisoned for their whole life. One can be released from prison one day but not from this social prison created by society.
While I was in the untouchable colony I was in two minds whether to continue or not to continue this work because of the opposition from my family and the Brahmin community and their combined concentrated rage aimed at me and my mission.
After few days I was going to Bettiah town in the afternoon to have a cup of tea with some friends of the colony. We saw that a boy wearing a red shirt was attacked by a bull. People rushed to save him but somebody from the back of the crowd shouted that the boy belonged to the untouchable colony. On hearing this everybody left him in that injured state. With the help of friends I took him to the local hospital but the boy died on the way. That day, there and then I forgot my family, my caste, my community and I took a solemn vow to fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi to rescue the untouchables from the shackles of slavery which had chained them for the past 5000 years.
Once again the sociological knowledge of tools used for research came to my aid. Sociology had taught us that for doing any research there should be some tools to test the hypothesis created for the research. Here the tool required was a flush toilet which did not require manual cleaning which could replace the bucket or dry toilets cleaned by human scavengers.
In those days hardly any house in rural areas had toilets. No school in such areas also had toilets. I studied in four schools in the villages but none of them had toilets. Women were the worst sufferers because they had to go for defecation in the open either before sunrise or after sunset. Sometimes they were bitten by snakes or scorpions and other times they were subjected to criminal assault and also molestation. Further in those days a large number of children used to die because of diarrhoea, dehydration, cholera and dysentery etc. In fact my own sister died because of diarrhoea while she was being taken to hospital. In urban areas 85% of the houses used to be served by the bucket toilets cleaned by human scavengers and public places had no facilities of there being maintained toilets and baths. So the general picture was totally bleak and dismal. Thus, in this scenario I had to find out a suitable technology which would be appropriate, affordable, indigenous and culturally acceptable in a country like India.
The technology available at that time was the sewerage system which was costly in construction as well as maintenance and it required enormous quantity of water to flush. In the late 60s only 23 cities out of 48 having a population of over one lac have sewerage system. There were 12 other towns which were partially sewered. About 3% of the total population used to be served by sewerage system in those days. Today out of 7933 towns/cities, 929 towns/cities have sewerage connection of which only 160 towns/cities have Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP). So by this sewer technology it was not possible to stop the defecation in the open or manual cleaning of human excreta by the untouchables. In those days very little work had been done in this sphere and only rudimentary literature was available on the subject. I went through those literature and here one thing is very important for us to know that application of mind is more important than knowledge. Knowledge can be borrowed but we have to apply our mind in such a way that there is a breakthrough.
To overcome these constraints, I invented, innovated and developed the two-pit pour-flush compost toilet and gave it the name ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’. In this Sulabh Shauchalaya there are two pits, one is used at one time and the other is kept on standby. When the first pit is full, it is switched over to the other one and the first one after two years becomes manure to be used in the fields to raise the productivity of the field and also used in flower plants, or fruit trees etc. It becomes a bio-fertilizer which contains phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. Moreover, Sulabh Shauchalaya also helps to economize the use of water which is the need of the country. It is said that unfortunately if the world war happens in future that would be for water. Sulabh toilets require only 1 litre of water for flushing while the conventional toilet requires ten litres. Most importantly in this toilet, manual scavenging is not required. Anybody can clean the pits because when it is cleaned there is no human excreta as the same has already been converted into ordinary soil and biofertilizer. Thus, Sulabh toilet, has become a tool of social change. Mahatma Gandhi got freedom for the country through the tool of the spinning wheel and the Industrial Revolution in Europe started from the tool of the spinning jenny. Thus similarly, this Sulabh toilet, has become a tool of social change and has brought vast beneficial effects for the society. In fact this technological innovation was a landmark in the history of sanitation marking a quantum leap and paradigm shift from the centralized system (the sewerage system) of the treatment of human waste to the decentralized system (Sulabh Shauchalaya) which were affordable, accessible, easily constructed and which a country like India could also easily afford. It has been said by a poet,
“Satsai ke dohre aru naavak ke teer,
Dekhan men choten lage ghaav kare gambhir.”
700 couplets of Bihari Lal is called “Satsai”
“Each couplet of satsai
An arrow from the quiver (arrow case) of the archer
Both seem to be very small to look at
But their impact is very deep, endurable and lasting.”
So on the one hand this Sulabh technology saw a marked behavioural change from open defecation to use of Sulabh Shauchalaya helping people who had bucket toilets to now have flush toilets and are able to use these hygienic toilets with safety and dignity and on the other hand the untouchable scavengers have been relieved from the subhuman occupation of cleaning nightsoil which practice was nearly 5000 years old. This toilet also gives biofertilizer to raise the productivity in the field. It has saved enormous quantity of water and the gases produced in the toilet are absorbed in the soil therefore it has also helped to reduce global warming helping to protect climate change.
We now come to the third tool of sociology which is methodology. I used methodology to get the bucket toilets converted to Sulabh Shauchalayas. It was decided that Sulabh International Social Service Organisation which I founded in 1970 will work as the catalytic agency amongst the Government, local bodies and the beneficiaries. Motivators of Sulabh will go from house to house to motivate and educate the beneficiaries and if they agree, get the form filled up for obtaining loan and grant from the local bodies and will build the toilets as per the design and specifications. To convince the Government, local bodies and beneficiaries a guarantee card would be issued for five years to rectify the defects free of cost if there were any. The job of the Government and local bodies will be to mobilize resources, to do monitoring and supervision, while the work of motivation, education, communication, training, designing, estimation, implementation, maintenance and follow-up would be done by the NGO. Consequently, with close cooperation and collaboration of the Government, local bodies and beneficiaries, the programme became very successful. The role of the NGO is also very important in this field because it requires sustained efforts, social commitment as well as adequate knowledge and expertise. So the methodology as is taught in sociology also worked very well. So far, Sulabh alone has converted 1.3 million bucket toilets into Sulabh flush toilets and lacs of scavengers have been freed from manual cleaning of human faeces and have been freed from shackles of untouchability.
After the human scavengers had been relieved from this subhuman occupation it was then a question of their livelihood. To rehabilitate the scavengers and to bring them in the mainstream of the society which was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi, I took the help of the other tool enunciated by Mahatma Gandhi, the tool of non-violence. Here I took the help of the upper caste people of the society and persuaded them to sit with these human scavengers and to dine with them. For attaining the goal I did not agitate against the social order of the upper caste people. I did not tear or burn the books of Vedas, Puranas and Manusmriti or other scriptures. I did not say a single word against anybody rather I persuaded the upper caste people to have social interaction with the untouchable human scavengers. Here is a great example, where I protested against the Hindu social order and those who were in favour of the social order right from the Vedic period. I have changed their mind, thoughts, behaviour and attitude towards toilets, sanitation and those who used to work for cleaning the toilets called untouchables. When I started in 1960 nobody used to talk about toilets.
It was a cultural taboo to talk about it specially while partaking food and there was no question of sitting, meeting and eating food with untouchables. So first of all I started giving education to human scavengers for reading, writing and putting their signature wherever required because education is the key of human development. By getting some education they got enlightened, darkness was removed from their minds and they started taking interest in reading, writing and telling their own stories, singing songs and most importantly many of the untouchable scavengers now have become good poets. They compose and recite poems which was earlier totally unbelievable. As Gandhi had given emphasis on basic education so I started giving them vocational education in different trades like making pappadam, noodles, pickles, stitching, tailoring, embroidery, and facial and beauty parlour training etc. so that they could earn their livelihood and be self-reliant. The products made by them are being sold in the market, hotels and also they sell pappadam and noodles in the same homes where earlier they used to go and clean the toilets. Apart from stitching, tailoring, fashion designing and carpet weaving, they also now do beauty care jobs and they go house to house to do facials to the same women in whose houses they used to clean toilets. Most of their clients are doctors and all the clients provide them with tea and breakfast and exchange pleasantries with them and the scenario is such that as if there was no untouchability in Indian society.
The most important thing is that once again I took the help of sociology and decided to help them to perform rites, rituals and ceremonies of the upper castes people. I took these untouchables to temples where entry of the untouchables was banned. We went to the famous Nathdwara temple, did worship with untouchables and upper caste people and when they came back, the then Hon’ble President of India, Shri R. Venkatraman and the then Hon’ble Prime Minister Bharat Ratna Shri Rajiv Gandhi gave audience to the untouchables. In Alwar there is a temple of Lord Jagannath and the Head Priest, who today will be awarded in this function, opposed the entry of these untouchables, held them up for five hours, not allowing them to enter the temple but finally we became successful after persuading him to allow the untouchables to worship the deity. The minds and attitudes of this Brahmin has changed so dramatically that he invited Smt. Usha Chaumar and others in the wedding of his daughter and his son and provided them food with their family members and accepted the gifts. Now whenever they go from that side this Brahmin always offers them to share a cup of tea. It was good to see that the upper caste people and the untouchables of Alwar dining together on many occasions in the colony of untouchables.
These untouchables were also taken on a trip to Varanasi to see the sacred river Ganges which they had never seen before where they got a chance to worship Lord Shiva and most importantly 200 Brahmins with their family, wives and children had shared food with these untouchables in the holy city of Varanasi which had never happened earlier in history. India is a multi-religious country so I also took them to pay obeisance at the Dargah of Ajmer Sharif, the sacred Church of the Convent of Jesus and Mary at Delhi and the Gurudwara Sahib at Rakabganj so that they may have a feel and experience of other religions as well. They were active participants in the World Toilet Summit held in New Delhi in 2007 where delegates from all over the world had come and for the first time these former scavengers had opportunity to enter the precincts of Vigyan Bhawan. They went to the United States and participated in the proceedings of the United Nations General Assembly where they also walked on the ramp along with top fashion models of India and America who walked side by side with them in a fashion show in the United Nations before a galaxy of diplomats from all corners of the globe. They also went to see the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of equality, liberty and freedom to declare themselves that they are now no longer untouchables. They also went to France to attend the Summit at Le Havre and Marseilles and finally they went to Durban to see the Phoenix Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi where he lived and started the movement and on that visit they proudly proclaimed, “Oh Bapu, because of you we are free from 5000 years of bondage and shackles of untouchability and social discrimination”.
Education, as I said earlier, holds the key to any major change and development and is essential to improving the condition of the traditionally oppressed communities specially the untouchables. With the objective of imparting quality education, Sulabh Public School, a premium English Medium School, was set up in Delhi in 1992. The school aims at preparing children from the weaker sections of society for a better life by bringing quality education within the reach of boys and girls from scavenger families. The school is recognized by the Directorate of Education, Government of Delhi and provides education upto tenth standard.
Apart from academic activities, co-curricular activities are regularly organized at school to promote social integration among students. To avoid perpetuation of segregation that characterizes the special schools for the scheduled castes, the school is open to the children of families from non-scavenging communities also. Children from scavenger families are provided tuition fee waiver apart from free uniforms, books and stationary. In the Sulabh Public School, 60% are the children belonging to the families of erstwhile scavengers while the other 40% are from other castes and communities.
The vocational training centre named “Nai Disha” has also been set up by Sulabh for the women liberated from manual scavenging so that they acquire skills in various trades, engage in gainful employment, start a new life and are easily able to assimilate in the mainstream of society. They are taught food processing, beauty care, cutting and tailoring. They have now learnt how to prepare pickle, pappad, masala, noodles, jam etc. They are also engaged in stitching frocks, night dress, napkins, bedsheets, saree embroidery etc.
The women who have undergone training at the centre have acquired self-confidence. In fact it has boosted their morale and they now know how to write their names and sign cheques. They have opened savings accounts in the bank and operate it. The vocational training centre at Alwar is a unique case of women empowerment. Impressed with the success of vocational training centre at Alwar, the Government of Rajasthan entrusted a project to Sulabh International Social Service Organisation for training of manual scavengers in Tonk. The project has been highly successfully and women scavengers who were liberated from manual scavenging have been rehabilitated.
The initiative in imparting training to the liberated scavengers in market-oriented trades through vocational training centres has yielded laudable results. The liberated scavenges are now settled in dignified employment, trades and occupations. Their socio-economic status has gone up. They are now engaged in producing their own products like garments, embroidery, pickles, papads etc. and sending it to the market for sale. Their goods are absorbed locally and are used by the persons belonging to all communities. This attitudinal change among the people towards them is remarkable as at one point of time when they were engaged in manual scavenging the people looked at them with contempt. But now they are using goods, articles, eatables prepared by them gladly and treat them on a par with others. They have been now absorbed in the mainstream of the society.
At this stage I would like to share with you, in a small measure, the views expressed by few eminent personalities. The first is of the former President of India, Hon’ble Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi on July 25, 2008. The occasion was when the liberated scavengers women of Alwar called on her apprising her of their visit to the United Nations and United States to participate in Mission Sanitation. Hon’ble President, Smt. Patil stated as follows:
“I congratulate you for what you have achieved, which you richly deserve, for which there is no
comparison. You have done such a great job and I would like to tell you that Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak has brought about a revolution, a very big revolution. Financial revolution can come about and can be brought about, but to bring a revolution in the mind-set of people is a very big achievement, a very difficult job which Dr. Pathak has brought about. He increased your self-respect, your selfconfidence and not only your own self-confidence but also showed to society what you are worth and what you can do. What he has shown everyone sees. The whole country looks at it and every village looks at it and tries to do what he has done.
If Mahatma Gandhi was watching today’s function from Heaven, his eyes would be brimming
with tears of joy. I do not think any other programme in the country would give so much happiness to Mahatma Gandhi as this one.”
The second is from the former Ambassador of United States of America in India, Mr. Timothy J. Roemer, who while addressing the students at the University of Notre Dame, Graduate School, Indiana, U.S.A. on May 21, 2011 told them a motivational, inspiring story, giving the example of Sulabh and Dr. Pathak. The relevant extract is quoted below:
“To motivate you, let me tell you a story about …… toilets! India is a country with many inspiring people. There is, of course, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. His teachings of tolerance really are the key to the success of democracy in India and he has influenced civil rights movements around the world including in the United States.
There is Mother Teresa, who lived and worked in India although her legacy now touches the lives of children, women, and the poor all over the world.
There is Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But there are also many inspiring people, lesser known to the world, like Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak.
Dr. Pathak, although from a very high caste, knew at a very young age that there was nothing
wrong with touching the untouchables. He has dedicated his life to restoring the human rights and providing dignity to scavengers, which is the bottom-rung caste in India responsible for cleaning up human waste.
To do so, he used technology to develop a safe and environment-friendly toilet to replace pit latrines, reducing the need for scavenging and improving sanitation and hygiene for both rural and urban poor.
He provided education to the children of scavengers, helping to break the never-ending family cycle of scavenging. He provided alternative economic opportunities so that women no longer have to clean toilets for the rest of their lives to provide for their families.
All this has helped tackle a bigger problem – breaking down the caste system in India. As you leave Notre Dame today, I hope you will remember the story of Dr. Pathak. He did not start out to change the world. He started out to help some scavengers in a few villages in Bihar, a small state in the north of India on the Nepal border. As you start out today, you do not have to change the world overnight. But I encourage you to try to make a difference.
As you walk out these doors and leave this campus for your final time as a student, follow the counsel of President John Quincy Adams, who said, “March then with firm, with steady, with undeviating step, to the prize of your high calling. Consecrate above all, the faculties of life to the cause of truth, of freedom, and of humanity.”
And lastly, the grandson of the great Mahatma Gandhi, Prof. Raj Mohan Gandhi, when he visited the Sulabh campus in 2010 with students of University of Illinois, U.S.A. He was so overwhelmed that he stated as follows:
“I am the son of the son of Mahatma Gandhi but Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is the son of his soul. If we were to go to meet Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he would first greet Dr. Pathak for the noble work that he is doing and then meet me. Dr. Pathak has restored human rights and dignity to people engaged in the manual cleaning of human excreta which they carried as head-load”.
A word here about the widows of Vrindavan, some of whom you see sitting in the audience today. Vrindavan has become host to widows from all over India shunned from the society when their husbands die, not for religious reasons but because of tradition as well as financial drain in the families. They pass their days in abject poverty and want, begging in the streets and lying on the steps outside temples hopefully waiting for scraps of food and alms. Even when they die there is nobody to take care of their cremation.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in a recent court order, directed the National Legal Services Authorities (NALSA) to contact Sulabh International Social Service Organisation to find out whether they could come forward to help the 1,780 odd widows living in four government shelters in Vrindavan. On getting this request without giving a second thought, within forty-eight hours I went to Vrindavan and was terribly moved by the plight of these widows and conditions that they live in. There and then I gave them the necessary monetary help and within a month thereafter each of these widows is getting an honorarium of Rs. 1000/- monthly for their needs from Sulabh. Sulabh has also provided five ambulances in each of the five widow shelter homes along with doctors and nurses and regular eye and medical check-ups are also held. Nearly 500 widows have been provided with spectacles as well as other health requirements from Sulabh. Most of all Sulabh has given them what they required most – love, affection, compassion, respect and dignity.
Another area in which Sulabh has played a pioneering role is the development of the concept of community latrines by constructing public toilets on ‘pay & use’ basis. Though the concept of public toilet found a place in the Bengal Municipal Act, 1876 as amended in 1878 which provided for operation of community toilets on ‘pay & use’ basis but it did not take off and it remained at the concept stage itself. I took the initiative in reviving and giving concrete shape to the concept of public toilets on ‘pay & use’ basis in Bihar for the first time in the year 1974. This was a landmark in the history of sanitation when the system of operating and maintaining community toilets with bathing and urinal facilities (popularly known as Sulabh Shauchalaya Complex) with attendant’s service round the clock was initiated in Patna on ‘pay & use’ basis with people’s participation and without any burden on the public exchequer or local authorities. It received a very encouraging response from the people over the years and the Patna experiment has been replicated throughout the country. Besides toilet, bathing and urinal facilities, some more amenities like public telephone, primary healthcare, drinking water etc. have also been provided at some Sulabh Shauchalaya Complexes.
Sulabh toilet complexes have electricity, 24 hours’ water supply and soap powder is supplied free to users for washing hands. The complexes have separate enclosures for men and women.
Children, disabled persons and those who cannot afford to pay the user’s fee are allowed to use the facility free of charge. These toilet complexes are being constructed at public places like bus stands, markets, railway stations, hospitals etc.
Sulabh has constructed more than 8000 public toilets at important places all over the country which are being used by more than 15 million people everyday. 200 of them are linked with biogas plants. It is further revealing that starting from a small district in Bihar, the organization is working today in as many as 25 States, 4 Union territories, 506 districts and 1629 towns all over the country. Sulabh International Social Service Organisation has also worked in Afghanistan and Bhutan. Sulabh at the behest of the External Affairs Ministry, Government of India constructed five toilet complexes with biogas plants in Kabul. These projects, have been executed and completed in collaboration with Kabul Municipality. These toilet complexes have been handed over to Kabul Municipality and are in operation. In collaboration with the Royal Government of Bhutan Sulabh International Social Service Organisation had constructed public toilets there and now Sulabh is planning to do the same in Uganda and fifty other countries.
Recycling and reuse of human excreta for biogas generation is an important way to get rid of health hazards from human excreta. Sulabh is a pioneering organisation in the field of biogas generation from public toilet complexes. During biogas generation, due to anaerobic condition inside digester most of the pathogens are eliminated from the digested effluent making it suitable for using it as manure. Thus, biogas technology from human wastes has multiple benefits – sanitation, bioenergy and manure.
Based on ‘Sulabh Model’ design, about 200 biogas plants linked with public toilets have been constructed by Sulabh in different states of the country so far. Human excreta based biogas technology remained unnoticed for a long time due to the fact that available technology was not socially acceptable as it required manual handling of human excreta which contains a full spectrum of pathogens. The design developed by Sulabh does not require manual handling of human excreta and there is complete recycling and resource recovery from the wastes.
Digester is made underground into which excreta from public toilet flows under gravity. Biogas is utilized for cooking, lighting through mantle lamps, electricity generation and being converted into energy to be used for lighting street-lights and such other uses. The sludge at the bottom of the digester can be used as fertilizer. Sulabh has also developed a new and convenient technology by which effluent of human excreta based biogas plant turns into a colourless, odourless and pathogen free manure. The technology is based on filtration of effluent through activated charcoal followed by ultraviolet rays. The residue water from the plant too can be used as biofertilizer because it contains phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium for raising productivity in the fields.
Training in Sulabh technologies have been organized for the officers, engineers and architects, etc. from a number of African countries which include Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania, Cote d’ Ivorie, Mali, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and Zambia. They have also been trained as part of achieving the Millennium Development Goals set for the sustainable development in water, sanitation, health and hygiene sectors.
These programmes were sponsored by U.N. Habitat. Sulabh technical team had gone to Ethiopia & Bangladesh for giving training on Sulabh Technologies. We have also provided training and orientation courses to Government employees specially local bodies. Some, Government departments have been sending their participants from India and abroad to learn this technology. Even at present a 12 member team from Tanzania is under training at Sulabh and this delegation is present in this august audience.
The Sulabh model has also been adopted by a number of countries, including China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia for expansion and promotion of sanitation facilities.
Here I make a small reference to the Sulabh Museum of Toilets, located in the campus of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a rare museum in the world. A large number of visitors, both from within country and abroad have shown keen interest in the toilet museum and they have found it very informative, fascinating and useful. So far about 27,50,000 persons have visited the website and over 5000 people come personally every year to visit the museum. The Sulabh International Museum of toilets has rare collection of artifacts, pictures and objects detailing the historic evolution of toilets since 2,500 BC. It gives a chronology of developments relating to technology, toilets related social customs and etiquettes, the sanitary conditions and legislative efforts of many countries. It has an extensive display of privies, chamber pots, toilets furniture, bidets and water closets in use from 1145 AD to the modern times. The objectives of the museum are to educate students about the historical trends in the development of toilets; provide information to researchers about the design, materials and technologies adopted in the past and those in use in the contemporary world; help policy-makers understand the efforts made earlier in this field throughout the world; help the manufacturers of toilet equipment and accessories in improving their products by functioning as a technology storehouse and to help sanitation experts learn from the past and solve problems in the sanitation sector.
I would also like to inform that Sulabh has also given opportunities to millions of people to be a part of the social reform movement and 50,000 people are regular volunteers and involved with the revolution being brought out by Sulabh. In this way Sulabh is playing an active role in poverty alleviation. In the end I would like to say that in my journey of sanitation spanning nearly 45 years, I have taken the help of truth, honesty, integrity, ethics and morality to create confidence among different cultures and communities, political parties, the Govt. and the people in general. Gandhiji said “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” Very true. I would add further that knowledge and action are both important. Swami Vivekanand said that, “they alone live who live for others.” John F. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address – “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
So I request all the fellow sociologists and academicians to consider these aspects which I have enumerated. It is my firm belief that the time has now come when “Sanitation” should be included as a discipline in sociology because the core problem areas embodying sanitation like social deprivation, hygiene, ecology, water, public health, poverty, gender equality, welfare of children etc. require sociological intervention also being intertwined with spiritual and philosophical knowledge. Hence I have termed it as Sociology of Sanitation. To conclude I have propounded the theory of Sociology of Sanitation which is as follows:-
“Sociology of sanitation is a scientific study to solve the problems of society in relation to sanitation, social deprivation, water, public health, hygiene, ecology, environment, poverty, gender equality, welfare of children and empowering people for sustainable development and attainment of philosophical and spiritual knowledge to lead a happy life and to make a difference in the lives of others.”
I am overwhelmed by the response this National Conference has generated and I am both beholden and grateful to the Hon’ble dignitaries, the participants and this august audience who have taken off their valuable time to be amongst us today. Last but not the least, I am thankful to all of you for giving me a very patient hearing.