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Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram Former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader at the

Sulabh Campus on April 04, 2016

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader jotting down his impressions in the guest book of Sulabh International


Address by Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader during his visit to the Sulabh Campus on April 04, 2016


Pathak Saheb, other distinguished senior citizens, who have devoted many years of their life to provide voluntary service, members of the Sulabh family, teachers, administrative staff, students, trainees and other friends.

I have not come here to tell you anything; I have come here to learn about what can be done. I have known Dr. Saheb for many years. I have closely watched the remarkable pioneering work that he has been doing for 47 years. What governments have not been able to accomplish, a single individual working with dedicated people has been able to accomplish bringing change to the lives of people. It is from him that the government learnt the idea that we must put an end to open defecation. For centuries, for nearly 5,000 years we had accepted that open defecation is a rule. Nobody in villages questioned how harmful open defecation is and when people came to cities they brought their village habit into the cities. If open defecation was very common in villages it became common in cities also and as slums came up in cities, things became worse. For many years we did not pay attention to this problem. Open defecation affects health, it stunts the growth of children, it spreads disease and it has many many harmful consequences. Apart from everything, open defecation is an affront to the dignity of an individual and as long as there is open defecation what does a society do? Society carves out a section of its own people and tasks them to do the dirtiest work possible and we did not care about the dignity of those persons. It turned out to be the people from the socalled lowest caste who were asked to do the job. I think it’s important that we put an end to this monumental indignity that we impose upon other people. We took up the construction of the toilets under the Nirmal Abhiyan programme. Now Ministers sit in Delhi, the Planning Commission sits in Delhi. We draw up a scheme and say we are going to give money for constructing public toilets, common toilets. We are going to give money to help individuals build their private toilets in their homes. But coming from a largely rural constituency which 2


I have not come here to tell you anything; I have come here to learn about what can be done. I have known Dr. Saheb for many years, I have closely watched the remarkable pioneering work that he has been doing for 47 years. What governments have not been able to accomplish, a single individual working with dedicated people has been able to accomplish bringing change to the lives of people.

I have learnt so much today, I have learnt about the history of toilets. When the Europeans were boasting that their first toilets were in 6th century BC your museum curator showed me that in 2500 BC India had toilets. Somehow during the dark ages and during the colonial period, we seemed to have lost all those good habits and fallen into bad habits. I think the toilet movement, the sanitation movement will not only bring about a health revolution but will also bringing about a social revolution because it cuts across the caste.

I have represented for nearly 30 years I found that this was not translating on the ground. So I told Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia one day (this is all recorded), what’s the point of your sitting in Delhi and making these plans? Let’s go out and see what’s happening on the ground. He has also written about it. So I took him to my constituency which is not a very backward constituency, moderately backward, one of the better backward areas and took him round the villages. And what did we find? We found that public toilets which have been built at a great cost were not maintained, were not cleaned and after a few months became cowsheds. It became a den for anti-social elements to gather in the evening and the private toilets built in homes, one half of them were working very well and they were being used but one half of them had been converted to storerooms. So while government can give money, government can make a design, government can make a programme, government cannot change the behaviour of people. That is the lesson we learnt. Only dedicated people like Dr. Saheb and his team can change the behaviour of the people, which is why the toilets that Sulabh builds are a success. The toilets that government builds are only 50 per cent successful. So, I told Dr. Saheb one day you have done remarkable work which is recognized throughout the world, not only within India all over the world; one man today is known for his lifelong dedication to sanitation it is Dr. Saheb. So I told him, we have to take this movement to the rest of the country. I offered him land in my district and I said I will help you build another complex here. He and I have had several discussions. We need one such complex in every district of India, and that is not difficult. It is not difficult. So much money is spent on so many useless programmes, why can’t each district of India allot five or ten acres of land, vacant land, not necessary agricultural land, barren land and the district administration should be told how to build a complex like this so that people can learn what sanitation is. Unfortunately, I have never been given charge of ministries other than Finance and Home. All my career I have either been in the Finance Ministry or the Home Ministry. The real ministries which touch peoples’ lives are the Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. These are the ministries that touch people’s lives.

Anyway to cut a long story short, we are going to build a complex in my district; land has been acquired, there is very little support from the government. It is a torturous process in getting the plans approved. But now I think, 95 per cent of the work is complete, the compound wall has been built and I have told Dr. Saheb and, I am telling you today, whatever it costs, I will fully support him to put up that complex. I know we cannot rival this complex, we cannot build overnight a complex to rival this complex, but I think we will try to do a good imitation of this complex. I have learnt so much today, I have learnt about the history of toilets. When the Europeans were boasting that their first toilets were in 6th century BC your museum curator showed me that in 2500 BC India had toilets. Somehow during the dark ages and during the colonial period, we seemed to have lost all those good habits and fallen into bad habits. I think the toilet movement, the sanitation movement will not only bring about a health revolution but will also bring about a social revolution because it cuts across the caste. Caste is the bane on the Indian society. It cuts across the castes, it cuts across the caste differences that we have built for ourselves. I fully support whatever Dr. Sahab has been doing and I offer you my congratulations, my best wishes and if there is anything that I can do to help you, please do not hesitate to ask me to do it but I sincerely hope that before 2016 is over or at least before the financial year 2016-17 is over by next March we will be able to build a complex in Tamil Nadu in my district.


Thank you very much for your warm welcome. You have showered me with so many gifts. I don’t know what I am going to do with all those gifts. Thank you very much for your affection. Thank you very much for your good wishes and I offer you my best wishes for your success. Thank you.


Citation Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, Former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader

School and was awarded a Masters in Business Administration. A lawyer by profession, he enrolled as an Advocate in the Madras High Court in 1969 and since them gradually came to be recognized as one of the leading senior counsels in India, particularly in the area of constitutional and corporate law. Active in politics from the late 1960s in the Youth Congress and the Congress Party, he was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984 and was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers in 1985 as a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Commerce. From there he made a steady and splendid progress in national politics and governance the trajectory of which is fairly well known. Renowned the world over as a champion of India’s economic liberalization, having been part of the national government, when the trade regime was opened up, and for the ‘dream’ budget of 1997, when tax rates and peak tariffs were slashed, Hon’ble Shri Chidambaram’s role in opening and empowering Indian economy is globally recognized. He was one of the most prominent ministers in the last UPA government, as well as the United Front government in the late 1990s. His extraordinary ability to deal with challenging situations can be gauged from the fact that it was to him that the Government turned after the 2008 Mumbai blasts to take charge of the Home Ministry and later the Finance Ministry at a crucial juncture in 2013. An articulate and forceful speaker, Hon’ble Shri Chidambaram has vast experience in global economic diplomacy. He is regularly invited to lectures at universities and other institutions in different parts of the world. He has a wide range of interests in culture and literature, especially Tamil literature. He is also fond of sports, especially Tennis, Badminton and Chess. He is married to Shrimati Nalini Chidambaram, a brilliant lawyer in her own right, and they have a promising son, Karti. This is a brief account of Hon’ble Shri Chidambaram’s glorious career and public life.

Dr. Pathak presenting the Citation to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader.


e are extremely happy to welcome Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram in our midst today. We take great pleasure in welcoming a uniquely gifted and dedicated politician who has set a benchmark of excellence in national life that has few parallels in contemporary India. We deeply admire Hon’ble Shri Chidambaram for his marvellous contribution to enhance our economic and social life with his special financial and administrative acumen. He is also one of our finest public thinkers, as reflected in his nuanced yet clearly expressed assessment of critical national issues. His clarity of thought and articulation not only on the difficult terrains of economics, finance and law of which he is an acknowledged master but also on a range of other socio-political issues has enhanced the level of public discourse. We are grateful to you, Sir, for your exceptional contribution to take India to greater heights during your eventful and illustrious public life. Born in a distinguished family in Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu, Hon’ble Shri Chidambaram studied at Presidency College, Chennai, and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree. He also received a Bachelor of Law degree at the Law College, Madras University. He subsequently attended the Harvard Business


Sir, we take this opportunity to briefly inform you about the main objectives, activities and achievements of our Sulabh Movement. Since its inception in 1970, Sulabh has been in the forefront of a nationwide movement for sanitation and social transformation. Sulabh has focused on two primary goals: to prevent environmental and water pollution by promoting cost-effective sanitation technologies and facilities; and, to liberate and rehabilitate a class of people who have been traditionally engaged in manual cleaning and disposal of human excreta. With the liberation of thousands of such scavenging Dalits and the construction of 1.3 million household toilets and 8,500 public toilet complexes, we have made a critical difference in the lives of millions of disadvantaged Indians. Though the scale of environmental pollution and the number of toiletless people still remain high in our country, Sulabh has given a technological breakthrough and shown effectively how the problems can be solved. It is heartening that the Government of India has launched the Swachh Bharat that aims to end defecation in the open by 2019, a goal for which Sulabh has been struggling for the last 47 years. Suffice here to say that we have done multifarious and groundbreaking work in sanitation and social sectors, the glimpses of which you will see during the visit to the campus today. Sir, we hope that this visit of yours and our interaction will bring us closer, paving the way for a deeper cooperation in our common aspiration and striving for a Clean, Healthy and Prosperous India. The Sulabh Family is enormously grateful for your visit. We welcome you once again to our premises. Thank you. April 04, 2016, New Delhi

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak and Sulabh Family 7

Welcoming at Sulabh Campus

Path-breaking contribution to society without the power of post or money — Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak


Bindeshwar Pathak is a versatile genius who has made pathbreaking contributions to society without the power of post or money. He has turned the pages of India’s long history of untouchability, social discrimination, and the mass practice of open defecation. In recent years, he has given a new life to the long-suffering widows of India. The Sulabh Founder is a Renaissance Man who combines in his multifaceted personality the traits of a social scientist, an engineer, an administrator and an institution-builder. What is remarkable is that he has ingeniously utilized all these talents to enrich and empower the depressed classes and improve community health, hygiene and environmental sanitation. He is thus fulfilling the dreams of two national icons—Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder, Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus on April 04, 2016.

Dr. Pathak is a great humanist and social reformer of contemporary India. To the weaker sections of society especially, his is the compassionate face of a paternal redeemer. He has the vision of a philosopher and the zeal of a missionary. An icon of sanitation and social reform, he has made a difference in the lives of millions of people. With his efforts the erstwhile untouchables have been allowed by the society to intermingle with them, to live on a par with them, dine with them and pray with them in the temples. He has created a new culture that embraces the poor and extols the dignity of labour. His boundless love for the downtrodden finds expression in myriad and tangible ways. No wonder those who know him swear that Dr. Pathak is born to help the helpless. He is the leader of an international crusade for restoration of human rights and dignity to millions of scavengers (cleaners and carriers of human excreta), traditionally known as untouchables, and for providing safe and hygienic human waste disposal system which can benefit 700 million Indians who go out for open defecation. Dr. Pathak’s multi-pronged efforts in bringing scavengers, worst victims of institutionalized caste discrimination and engaged in a sub-human occupation, into the mainstream 8

Ms. Usha Chaumar, President of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a liberated woman scavenger, welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus


Shri Arun Pathak, IAS (Retd.), welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus Shri B.B. Sahay, IAS (Retd.), welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus

Shri Pankaj Jain, IAS (Retd.), welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus


Associate Members of Sulabh International welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus


of national life, have taken the shape of a movement for social justice and social reform. Dr. Pathak is an internationally acclaimed expert on sanitation and he has developed and implemented on pan-Indian scale a low-cost and appropriate toilet technology, popularly known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya System. This invention has been declared as a Global Best Practice by United Nations HABITAT and United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS). The credit of sensitizing Indians towards sanitation and those engaged in the sanitation work goes to Dr. Pathak. Apart from low-cost sanitation, his contributions are widely known in the areas of bio-energy and bio-fertilizer, liquid and solid waste management, poverty alleviation and integrated rehabilitation programme for the liberated scavengers. Dr. Pathak is a winner of several national and international awards—Padma Bhushan from the Government of India (1991); the International Saint Francis Prize for Environment (1992); the Stockholm Water Prize by Stockholm International Water Institute (2009), the LEGENDE DE LA PLANETE Congres Fondateur Jeux Ecologiques at UNESCO, Paris; (2013). He has been selected by the Time magazine as one of the Heroes of the Environment for the designer’s low-cost toilet that has helped the planet, improved sanitation for millions and freed countless scavengers from a life of cleaning human waste. He is ranked by The Economist (November 2015) amongst the World’s Top 50 diversity figures in public life along with US President Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie and Bill Gates; WHO Public Health Champion Award by WHO at New Delhi (2016); The New York Global Leaders Dialogue conferred the “2016 Humanitarian Award’’ upon Dr. Pathak on 12th April, 2016 in New York, (US). The New York Global Leaders Dialogue jury said: “Dr. Pathak is a great humanitarian who, for decades, has enhanced the quality of life for millions of fellow human-beings. He is the perfect example of a social leader, who is needed to be followed by other nations”. Mr. Bill De Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, declared April 14, 2016 as DR. BINDESHWAR PATHAK DAY. Recently, Dr. Pathak received the “Indian of the Year, 2015–Outstanding Achievement” award for his contribution in the field of sanitation by CNN-News18 at New Delhi.


Dr. Pathak's initiatives– Freedom for untouchables and restoration of their human rights


fter liberating the untouchable manual scavengers, Dr. Pathak developed a holistic plan to restore their human rights and dignity and bring them into the mainstream of society. Firstly, he got them relieved from the work of cleaning human excreta by getting bucket toilets cleaned by scavengers and converted into Sulabh flush toilets. Thus, the owners of the bucket toilets got the flush toilets and raised no objections. Secondly, he set up a centre called ‘Nai Disha’ at Alwar, Rajasthan, to provide them education and vocational training to earn their own livelihood. Dr. Pathak first taught them how to read and write, and how to put their signatures to draw money from the banks. For three months, Sulabh provided them stipend in cash because they were not literate. But after they learnt to read and write Sulabh gave them their stipend by cheques. Sulabh gave them vocational education in making eatables like papads, noodles, pickles and also in market-oriented trades such as tailoring, embroidery, fashion designing, beauty-care, etc. Vocational training enabled them to earn their livelihood, thus freeing them from economic problems. Dr. Pathak helped them to perform rituals and ceremonies of the Brahmins and upper castes. Initially, there was some opposition, but now the Brahmins offer them a cup of tea when they visit them. Now, they even invite the ex-untouchables on festive occasions and marriage ceremonies and exchange gifts. Dr. Pathak also took the ex-untouchables to Varanasi to take a dip in the sacred Ganga. They also offered prayers to Lord Shiva at the Vishwanath temple and received the Lord’s blessings. After that 200 Brahmin families had a meal with them. This had never happened before. Later, Dr. Pathak also took them to the holy shrine of Ajmer Sharif and the sacred Cathedral Church, New Delhi, where they participated in the prayers. They also visited and prayed at the Gurudwara. Thus, the people of different faiths and castes accepted the former untouchables. Through these measures Dr. Pathak succeeded in emancipating the scavengers as well as making two towns of Rajasthan—Alwar and Tonk—scavenging-free. The scavengers now freely mingle with the upper-caste families, including those that had earlier employed them to clean and carry night soil. Now they sit together for tea and breakfast. The scavengers do the facials and beautycare work for the upper-caste ladies. They are no longer discriminated against in the market place while shopping or buying fruits and vegetables. The upper-caste families now exchange greetings and attend the festivals of the untouchables and vice-versa. This shows a remarkable social change in the people’s attitude. Alwar and Tonk are now free of untouchability. Thus, Dr. Pathak has brought the untouchables into the social mainstream. 13

A group photograph with the former untouchable women scavengers from Alwar and Tonk (Rajasthan) and Nekpur, Ghaziabad, (Uttar Pradesh).

A former untouchable woman scavenger from Alwar, Rajasthan, welcoming Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, by applying the traditional vermilion ‘Tilak’ on his forehead.

Liberated manual women scavengers from Alwar & Tonk (Rajasthan) and Nekpur, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, presenting bouquet to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, at the Sulabh campus.



Dr. Pathak's Prophetic Gesture to Widows of Vrindavan On a writ petition filed by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) for ameliorating the lives of the Vrindavan widows, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had expressed concern at their plight, requesting the concerned authorities to inquire whether Sulabh would provide food to the widows, who were living in pitiable and penurious conditions.

Widows of Vrindavan and Varanasi presenting bouquets to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader.

This prompted Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak to immediately pay a visit to Vrindavan. On visiting the Ashrams, he found their condition heartrending and pathetic. Shocked and moved to tears on hearing their stories and miseries, he immediately provided a stipend of Rs. 1000 per month to each of the 552 widows. Since then Dr. Pathak has taken various steps to mitigate the sufferings of the widows and improve their living conditions. Later, it became apparent to him that the amount of Rs. 1000 per month per widow was inadequate. Some of them still used to go to various temples to sing bhajans for five rupees a day for meeting their expenses on food and other essentials. He wanted to ensure that the widows living in these government-run shelters do not go to bed hungry or eke out their living by begging, which was hitherto a common sight. Keeping these things in mind, he increased the stipend amount to Rs. 2000 with effect from February 2013. This has enabled the widows to have two meals in their Ashrams, obviating the need to go out for singing and begging. This has instilled in them a sense of belonging and has lifted their broken spirits.

A group photograph with the widows of Vrindavan and Varanasi.




The saga of an open defecation-free village

Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, about the women from Hirmathla village. Now, Hirmathla has been declared an open defecation-free village, and serves as a model village in the area in terms of a remarkable behavioural change.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, accepting the bouquet from the women of Hirmathla village, Haryana.

Hirmathla is a village in Mewat district of Haryana where Sulabh has undertaken promotion of sanitation awareness and construction of toilets for all inhabitants. Sulabh got financial assistance from the Rail Tel Corporation India Limited under its Corporate Social Responsibility Programme for construction of 100 individual household toilets. Out of the total cost, the beneficiary’s contribution was Rs. 3,000 and the rest of the cost was borne by Rail Tel for 100 units and for 36 units by Sulabh. Every household in the village has a toilet now. Thus, the village has become free of open defecation. Having been declared a Nirmal Gram, Hirmathla has been awarded for the same. Sulabh has provided Total Sanitation Coverage in the village: construction of toilets for all individual households; creation of awareness for sanitation; promotion of health and hygiene programmes in schools; encouragement of women empowerment; and strengthening of Self-Help Groups (SHG) for monitoring and implementation of the sanitation and social plans. 18


A group photograph with the women of Hirmathla village.



Ludhiana: Achieving Sanitation Milestone.........


ver 600 million people in India defecate out in the open posing serious health, security and environment threats. This, however, is about to change as sanitation experts and businesses join hands in their efforts to provide toilet to every house.

Ludhiana district, in northern Indian state of Punjab, is one such example. Paramjit Kaur, 27, mother of three children, just had a toilet built in her house and described it as the most “exquisite” gift. With a monthly income of Rs. 6,000 ($90), her family had no means to build a modern toilet. Her family dwells in a tiny cluster with four other families also with no toilets: the semi-concrete houses adjoin a dusty motorway with fast moving lorries and cars. Paramjit narrates how her life changed drastically, when a toilet was “gifted” to her. “I had to walk almost 2 kilometres taking three little children with bottles of water, just before the daybreak crossing the highway far into the fields for relieving, so that no one could notice us.” She says it was nightmarish and humiliating exercise as the owners of the nearby paddy farmlands would threaten and abuse them if they were caught defecating in their fields. There was a constant threat of snake and rodent bites, and also the fear of the criminal elements roaming in the dark. This took a toll on the family’s health. “My children often fell sick with diarrhoea, cholera, fever, stomach infection or cold. We had high medical expenses almost every month. During winters, when we would get up early to meet the call of nature, we had to brave the chilly winds and the fog”, she recounts. Answering the call of nature was further difficult if any of the family members fell ill. That meant relieving nearby and disposing the poo at a safer distance. There were other problems like children often getting late for school, which invited the ire of the teachers. A few months back, Bharti Foundation, the CSR arm of the Indian multi-national business conglomerate Bharti enterprise, offered to construct toilet for her and her neighbours free of cost. The project is part of Rs. 100 crore initiative with an aim to provide 12,000 toilets, covering 900 villages in Ludhiana district. The toilets are being built and maintained by Sulabh International, a globally renowned sanitation NGO with over four decades of experience in providing affordable two-pit flush toilets. 22

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, accepting the bouquets from the families of Ludhiana, Punjab, where Sulabh International has built toilets and is maintaining them with support from Bharti Foundation. Bharti Foundation was deeply motivated by the Prime Minister’s famous speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in 2014 on Swachh Bharat, which prompted them to adopt Ludhiana District for providing toilets to each household in rural areas.

Paramjit says the toilet in houses brought remarkable comfort and a greater sense of hygiene and good health in their lives. Her medical bills have sharply reduced and she is able to organize her household work in a better way, and her children are no longer late for school. Paramjit echoes 300 million women across India who do not have access to proper sanitation, and are often vulnerable to sexual harassment, assault, rape and voyeurism. In 2014, two young Dalit girls were raped, murdered and hanged to a tree in a village in north India, which involved world-wide condemnation. Taking stock of the situation, the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in his first address to the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort on India’s Independence Day had called for a holistic action to end open-defecation and vowed to make sanitation one of the priorities of his government. 23

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Sociologist and the Founder of Sulabh International, says “to meet India’s goal, it needs to build around 12 crore toilets for which it needs around Rs. 3,60,000 crores.” Dr. Pathak says it is not clear how the government proposes to raise such amount. The state governments want the amount for the construction of toilets to come from other sources, but not from their own budgets. The Government of India, through the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, issued direction to all the companies with a net profit of over Rs. 5 crores to spend at least 2% of the annual profit on welfare measures, including sanitation. “The public and private sector undertakings have already started taking up the projects and it is expected that Rs. 20,000 crores may come from their contributions but more needs to be done”, says Dr. Pathak. In Ludhiana, most households without toilets were seen owning television and refrigerators. The villagers say such articles can be bought through instalments, but constructing a toilet is expensive and there are no financial arrangements to pay for it. Dr. Pathak says bank loan to a beneficiary is the best way to finance the construction of toilets. It is both transparent and efficient. The government offers a subsidy of Rs. 12,000 for every household, which is not enough to construct a quality toilet. Further, it takes a lot of time for the money to trickle down through government’s complex machinery. He says, “If beneficiaries take loan they will have ownership of the toilets leading to behaviour change.” Such experiments have been successful in Hirmathla village in the state of Haryana – 60 kms from Delhi – where the beneficiaries contributed Rs. 3,000 (10% of the amount) and the rest were paid through the CSR initiative of a state-owned corporation, Railtel, and by Sulabh International itself. Hirmathla village today is free of open defecation and serves as a model village in the area. The concerted efforts of the motivators have led to a remarkable behaviour change. A group photograph with the people of Ludhiana, Punjab and Madhusudankati village of West Bengal.



Making a qualitative change in the Arsenic-affected people of Madhusudankati, West Bengal


ulabh has set up in Madhusudankati, a remote hamlet in West Bengal near the IndiaBangladesh border, a pilot project, Sulabh Purified Water Plant, which treats water collected in a deep, man-made pond at the village. It has been developed jointly by Sulabh and French NGO 1001 Fontaines. The plant started operating several months ago with the capacity to produce everyday 8,000 litres of potable water called Sulabh Jal. The water costs 50 paise (less than one cent) per litre, which makes it the cheapest purified bottled water. For the residents of Madusudankati, the plant has proved to be a great help after years of suffering from skin and other diseases caused by arsenic in groundwater pumped from wells. After commencement of the Sulabh Water Treatment Plant, the residents are getting clean Sulabh Jal. There has been considerable improvement in the health of the people affected by the arsenic poison. Apart from supplying safe drinking water, Sulabh is also treating people suffering from arsenic poisoning at a health centre adjacent to the water plant.


Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, the suffering of the people of Madhusudankati village in West Bengal due to arsenic contamination in groundwater and how Sulabh came to their recent by setting up a water treatment plant and providing clean and cheap drinking water.


Sulabh Purified Water ATM: An innovative initiative for community service


he Sulabh Purified Drinking Water is the latest technological initiative from Sulabh Impure water from rivers, ponds, wells, water bodies and taps is purified by this Sulabh technology; the treated water becomes safe for human consumption. Sulabh has installed water treatment plants at six blocks of West Bengal in the Districts of 24 Parganas (South & North), Nadia, Murshidabad, West Midnapurd. Raw water is drawn from the river Ganga in Mayapur and Murshidabad, while in Madhusudankati it is taken from a local pond, Haridaspur and Chaksultan, Mirzapur, (West Midnapur) is taken from well. After its treatment at the Sulabh Water Treatment Plant, the water from the river/pond/well becomes purified and absolutely safe for drinking. Sulabh is bottling this water which is known as Sulabh Safe Drinking Water which is available for 50 paise per litre. Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, inspecting the Sulabh Water ATM facility installed at the entrance of the Sulabh Campus in New Delhi.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, using the Sulabh Water ATM facility installed at the entrance of the Sulabh Campus in New Delhi.


Dr. Pathak explaining to the Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the technology used to make the Sulabh purified water.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister operating the installed vending machine for making sanitary napkins at the Sulabh community toilet complex.


Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, keenly watching the medicines being provided to the poor people free of cost by Sulabh International.

Sulabh Health Centre: An initiative to outreach The Sulabh Ideal Health Centre is a part of the Sulabh Toilet Complex. A Total Healthcare Concept is practised here to achieve the goal of ‘Health for All’, as visualized by WHO. The Health Centre has the following facilities: Free consultations by doctors for the general public throughout the day. Dispensing of essential medicines at a token amount of Rs. 5 from those who are willing to pay; otherwise it is given free of cost. Sanitary Napkin Vending Machine which provides low-cost sanitary napkins. Distribution of Condoms, Oral Contraceptive Pills (OCPs), Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS), Iron, Folic Acid and Calcium Tablets free of cost. Works as the Pulse Polio Centre of the Delhi Government. Dr. Namita Mathur explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, about the activities of the Sulabh Health Centre.



Sulabh Biogas Plant: A low-cost energy initiative The human excreta in the Sulabh Public Toilet does not go waste. Linked to the Sulabh Biogas Plant, the excreta is treated for producing gas. This Sulabh biogas is used for cooking, lighting lamp, electricity generation, warming oneself and also for street-lighting. 32


Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, frying papad at the Sulabh kitchen, where the biogas from the Sulabh toilet complex is used for cooking. It is more economical than conventional gas.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, lighting the mantle lamp, which uses biogas from the Sulabh Toilet Complex, as the source of energy.

Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the generation of electricity from biogas produced by the Sulabh Biogas Plant linked to the Sulabh Public Toilet. This can also be used for street lighting as was done in Patna by Sulabh.


Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, watching a demonstration of the Sulabh biogas which is being used for warming oneself during the winter season.


Sulabh Effluent Treatment Plant: Eco-friendly Innovation

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, keenly watching the treated water taken out from the Sulabh Effluent Treatment Plant.

Another technology developed by Sulabh is the Sulabh Effluent Treatment Plant wherein biogas plants effluents from public toilets become odourless, colourless and pathogenfree. This concept of recycling is based on the fact that the water in the system is purified through Ultra Violet (UV) rays and such water is free from pathogens and bacteria. The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) is less than 10 per milligram per litre in the treated water, making it safe to be used as fertilizer or to be discharged into river bodies as there is no chance of pollution.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, being explained by Dr. Pathak, the working of the Sulabh Effluent Treatment Plant, and how the treated water is made pathogen-free, which can be safely used for floriculture and horticulture.


Dr. Pathak thus developed the human waste treatment system in its entirety to dispose it locally, without the need of costly sewage treatment plants, etc. Recognizing this, the BBC Horizons has declared the Sulabh technologies as one of five unique inventions of the world. 37

Dr. Pathak's technological invention Sulabh Two-Pit Ecological Compost Flush Toilet: A Tool of Social change Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was the first person in modern India, who paid attention to the problems of open defecation and manual scavenging. He wanted to end these practices at the earliest, as he was keen to restore the human rights and dignity of the untouchables. He had a special concern for the scavenging untouchables—he wanted that their status should be on a par with others, and even that of the highest in the land—but felt that till the time they cleaned human faeces, nobody would have food or social relation with them.

Dr. Pathak showing to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the low-cost Sulabh toilet made out of local material like gunny bags. Gandhiji always advocated the use of locally available materials; similarly Sulabh Two-Pit Ecological Toilets can be built by whatever materials are easily available in a particular area.

In 1968, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak joined the Bihar Gandhi Centenary Celebration Committee, which was formed to make preparations for the centenary celebrations of Gandhiji in 1969. There, he was assigned the task of finding an alternative to manual scavenging as well as developing the ways and means to restore human rights and dignity of the untouchables, which was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. After extensive research, Dr. Pathak invented the two-pit ecological compost flush toilet known as Sulabh Shauchalaya for the safe and hygienic disposal of human waste. This toilet technology, which is appropriate, affordable and culturally acceptable, requires only one litre of water to flush out the excreta in comparison to the requirement of 10 litres per flush in a conventional toilet. In the Sulabh technology, the human excreta gets converted into fertilizer because out of the two pits, one is used at a time and the other remains as a standby. Manual cleaning of human excreta is not required in this system. In addition to this, bio-fertilizer is produced, which can be used to raise the farm productivity, or for horticultural and floricultural purposes. This technology proved to be the effective solution to end the practice of manual cleaning of night soil by the untouchable scavengers and defecation in the open. Dr. Pathak showing to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the use of locally available material for construction of two-pit compost toilet.



Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the model of the Sulabh two-pit ecological toilets and how it diverts incoming excreta from one pit to the second pit.

Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, a detailed overview of the two-pit model which requires only one litre of water to flush.

Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the technology of Sulabh two-pit pour flush ecological compost toilet at the Sulabh Campus.



Dr. Pathak's initiatives: Wealth from Waste In the Sulabh two-pit ecological compost toilet, the human excreta after remaining in the pit for two years gets converted into biofertilizer. This biofertilizer is free from pathogens, as it contains nitrogen (1.8%), phosphate (1.6%) and potassium (1%). This can be used to enhance the productivity of the soil—for agriculture and horticulture purposes. This manure is a rich fertilizer, and also a very good soil conditioner that improves the farm productivity.

Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the Sulabh technology of purifying domestic waste water through duckweed (a free floating aquatic plant), which cleans water to a level that it can be safely discharged into any water body.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, keenly watching a pod of odour-free dried human excreta taken out from the Sulabh two-pit compost toilet.


Dr. Pathak showing the dried water hyacinth to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, and explaining that the biogas generation shows better results when fed with the dried water hyacinth which increases gas production.


Designer Door: Made out of Human Excreta

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, showing a small ball of dried human excreta. One can freely touch it.

Dr. Pathak explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the low-cost door made from compressed human excreta.


Mr. Santiago Sierra and Ms. Mariana David, two sculptors from Mexico, visited Sulabh in January 2006 with a project to make some art works out of manure converted from human excreta of the pits of Sulabh Shauchalayas. After much experimentation and research, they created 22 sculptures in the shape and size of doors. In their artistic venture, they got assistance from Mr. Michael Coombs, an artist from London. Their art works were displayed in the Lisson Art Gallery in London in November 2007, and later also exhibited in the Munich Gallery in Germany. One of their art works is prominently displayed in the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. 45

The Sulabh Research and Development Laboratory

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, evincing keen interest in the functioning of the Research Laboratory on the Sulabh Campus.

Sulabh has a well-equipped and fully functional laboratory with testing facilities for undertaking research and innovation in waste water treatment methods, low-cost sanitation technologies, development and improvement of biogas digester system, etc. Among other things, this laboratory has the distinction of testing a large number of samples, at the behest of the Delhi Pollution Control Board, from effluent treatment plants of various industries in Delhi and providing certificates about the quality of the effluent discharged.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, along with Dr. Pathak having a glimpse of the display panels, which show the four-and-a-half-decades journey of Dr. Pathak and Sulabh

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, looking at the samples through the microscope at the Sulabh Research and Development Laboratory.


A glimpse into the Four-anda-halfdecades journey of Dr. Pathak and Sulabh through the display panels

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, evincing keen interest in the display boards, which show the journey and milestone of Dr. Pathak and Sulabh.


Dr. Pathak’s thrust on education for the children of former untouchable scavengers: Sulabh Public School The Sulabh Public School is situated within the Sulabh Campus in New Delhi. Here, 60 per cent of the students are from the Dalit community and 40 per cent from other communities. This English medium school is one of the first schools of its kind, where


Dalit students get not only free quality education, but also get all facilities, including books, uniforms, etc., free of cost. In this model school, the toilets are cleaned by the teachers and students themselves, and not by others. Mahatma Gandhi wanted that all people should clean their own toilets. This school fulfils this dream of Gandhiji. Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, with the children of Sulabh Public School during the Morning Assembly.


Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, interacting with the students of the Typing & Shorthand class, a wing of the Sulabh Vocational Training Centre.

Sulabh Vocational Training Centre The Sulabh Campus in New Delhi also houses a Vocational Training Centre. This centre imparts twoyear training in vocations like tailoring, beauty care, computers, fashion designing, embroidery, stenography, electronics, etc., to young students, mainly belonging to the weaker sections of society.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, interacting with the students of the Beauty-care class, a wing of the Sulabh Vocational Training Centre.

It is heartening to note that not a single youngster trained here in the market-friendly trades has come back to say that he or she has not got a job. They all get employment because the training given here is extensive and effective. The Sulabh Vocational Training Centre empowers youth from struggling background, by skilling them in a trade in order to earn their living and lead a meaningful life.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, interacting with the students of the Cutting & Tailoring class, a wing of the Sulabh Vocational Training Centre.


Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, interacting with the students of the Sulabh Public School in Computer class.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, interacting with the slum students of the tailoring class, a wing of the Sulabh Vocational Training Centre.


Sulabh School Sanitation Club Sulabh has set up a Sulabh School Sanitation Club. In this Club, apart from other activities, the schoolgirls are taught to make sanitary napkins using simple materials. The school has also installed a vending machine, where sanitary napkins are available. Incinerators have also been installed for safe disposal of sanitary napkins. Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, keenly watching the processes of making sanitary napkins.

A group photograph with the students of the Sulabh School Sanitation Club

A young girl, who is a member of the Sulabh School Sanitation Club, explaining to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, the processes of making sanitary napkins.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, watching the ash from the incinerator machine.



Sulabh International Museum of Toilets: A Panorama Unfolding the Epic of the Culture of Sanitation A unique Museum of Toilets is located at the Sulabh Campus. One of its kinds in the world, the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets has a rare collection of artefacts, pictures and objects detailing the historic evolution of toilets since 2500 BC. A large number of visitors, both from India and abroad, have shown keen interest in this museum, finding it informative, educative and fascinating. So far about 28 lakhs persons have visited it through our website, and over 10,000 people have taken the trouble to come here personally to see this museum. Different items collected in the museum give a chronology of developments relating to sanitation technology, divulge toilet-related social customs and etiquettes, and shed light on the sanitary conditions and legislative efforts of many countries over the centuries. The museum has an impressive display of privies, chamber pots, toilet furniture, bidets and water closets in use from 1145 AD to the contemporary time.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, watching the various artefacts at the Museum.

The museum aims to educate students and interested people 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, and help policymakers and sanitation experts better grasp the efforts made earlier in this field, throughout the world so that they can learn from the past and solve the present-day problems in the sanitation sector. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets has been ranked by the Time magazine as the third in the world’s 10 weirdest museums.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, watching the model of a doublestoreyed toilet complex, USA (1920) in which the first floor was reserved for the managerial class while the workers used the ground floor.



Sulabh Assembly Hall

Dr. Pathak presenting the two-pit model memento to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader.

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader, being felicitated by Dr. Pathak.

Dr. Pathak presenting a Madhubani tapestry made by the artists of Madhubani from Bihar to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader.

Mrs. Usha Chaumar, the liberated woman scavenger from Alwar, Rajasthan, and now the President of Sulabh International, welcomes Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader.


Dr. Pathak presenting his book to Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader


His Excellency

Mr. Timothy J. Roemer

Ambassador of the United States to India


is Excellency Mr. Timothy J. Roemer, Ambassador of the United States to India, delivered the Commencement Address in the University of Notre Dame, Graduate School, Indiana, U.S.A. on 21st of May 2011.

The following is an extract from his speech: “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.

“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.” – Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi

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.”



His Excellency

Mr. Richard Rahul Verma United States Ambassador to India visited at the Sulabh campus on August 13, 2015


hank you Doctor, Thank you Sulabh. Thank you to everyone who is here today and for all that you have done.

It is really a great privilege and honour for me to be here with all of you because you have done so much to transform ordinary lives. As people’s lives have been impacted in such a special way and they have been given the respect they deserve - this has a huge impact on millions of people across this country. I am so proud to be here today and to meet all of you and to congratulate all of you for all the outstanding work that you have done. It has been absolutely amazing. The commitment to work on clean water and sanitation and to help realize India’s goal and Prime Minister’s vision is something we are very committed to. On behalf of the President and on behalf of the Secretary of the State, I know this is a huge priority for them, it is a huge priority for our mission, for USAID team, for our health team at the Embassy and we are proud to be partner with you. We look forward to working with you, on these really worthwhile efforts and what I learnt here today that is it doesn’t take a lot of money, that is necessary. It doesn’t take most advance technology; it takes commitment from people to change the way they do things; it takes change by governments, and by leaders; it takes some finding and again to impact health, safety to education and particularly to impact girls and how people can transform their lives; really we are committed to these efforts thoroughly with you. I would tell you that my parents immigrated from Punjab in Jalandhar and I was able to go back to the house where my grandmother lived, in 1974. I was there as a boy and there was no flush toilet in the house in 1974. So I knew exactly what the challenge is and I also know that when I went two months back things have changed dramatically for the better and the world’s new infrastructure, new sanitation, and new toilets could be put; so it’s long way to go, so much progress has been made under the leadership of such an inspiring leader that you have here in Dr. Pathak. It’s really amazing; we would continue to be your partner, thanks for the great team. From the U.S. Embassy we congratulate all of you and all of you are really role models for us and we would be following your footsteps. Thank you very much.


I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. -- “I have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963 – Martin Luther King Jr.


His Excellency

Mr. Alexendre Cécé Loua Ambassador of the Republic of Guinea visited the Sulabh Campus on January 19, 2016

His Excellency

Mr. Alphonsus H.M. Stoelinga,

Ambassador of the Netherlands


is Excellency Mr. Alphonsus H.M. Stoelinga, Ambassador of the Netherlands to India, Bhutan and Nepal on the Sulabh Campus: July 12, 2016

".......I belong to a developing country and today I know the reason why the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has taken the decision to build toilets all over the country. The Sulabh Technology has to be exported....."

I am very grateful to Dr. Pathak and to all of you for receving me here and, of course, to Biswas for bringing me here. I have seen here everything i.e. the school, the museum, the technologies that you developed and what you are doing here is about hygiene; it is about education and it is also about skills. But foremost it is about putting an end to scavenging and to give a future to those whose work it was. Now as far as hygiene is concerned, it is so important that children must practise hygiene, and work in a hygienic environment because if they don’t do so - for example- they get worms and they fall sick and they cannot go to school; it’s a strain on the society, its a strain on children’s future. The same is the case with separate toilets for girls. If there are no toilets for them in school, the parents don’t want to send their daughters to schools. Again this is a strain on their future. It results in a strain on the future of the country. So hygiene is must for every person. Hygiene is must a for society and hygiene is important for future of our economy. I am learning the hindi language and I can tell you: “It is better today to say to all the people of the world, ‘saff kijiye’ then to have to say tomorrow to our children ‘maff kijiye’.” So hygiene is important, education is important and what I have also seen here is skill development. The Modi Government has to create 12 million jobs per year. You contribute to giving people the skills to do these jobs. So, we also have to train people in skills, not only in academics, not only engineers, but also plumbers, carpenters, electricians. People who can work in factories, people who can repair things and a lot of skills that we have to develop and I have seen here that you are very active in this. I feel what you are doing generally here is making it possible for people to realize their potential. I daily read many Indian newspapers, and I hear speeches of people who are specialist in the matter: if India wants to transform itself it needs economic growth by 10 per cent. You are very very high at seven and a half per cent growth but in order to reach 10 per cent you need to engage all the brains, all the potential of all men and women. India has got 1.3 billion people, that means 1.3 billion brains, 1.3 billion talents. But there are people here walking around without education. We should educate them. Only if we empower them, the Indian society, the people and the economy will prosper. And you, Dr. Pathak, made a very important contribution here. I normally like to finish my speeches using Hindi words and hope you all understand Hindi, because I don’t don’t speak the other languages of India. ‘Mai sochata hun ki hamare desho ke aur logon ke sahyog se kamyabi milegi’. Thank you very much.



ASSI GHAT– THE WINNER “Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched Usha Chaumar, the Dalit former untouchable and now President of Sulabh International, walk up to the podium to receive the Safaigiri Award for 2015 from no less a person than the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi on 2nd October, 2015.

Life for her as well as for me had taken a full circle. The result of forty seven years of tireless striving dedication and hard work was before my eyes. Shunned by society, forced to manually clean human excreta, discriminated and looked down upon, Usha Chaumar received the coveted award with her head held high in front of a galaxy of dignitaries. For me this was a moment of immense pride and satisfaction and quite understandably I became very emotional.” – Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak



Always clean up after yourself. You are responsible for the waste you produce and you should ensure that it’s disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.’ -BINDESHWAR PATHAK


BINDESHWAR PATHAK This designer's low-cost toilet has helped the planet, improved sanitation for millions-and freed countless scavengers from a life of cleaning human waste


As the 6-year-old son in an upper-class Brahmin family, Bindeshwar Pathak wanted to know what would happen if he touched a scavenger, one of India’s “untouchables,“ stuck at the bottom of the country’s social order and fated to collect and dispose of human waste. When he did, his grandmother punished him by forcing him to swallow cow dung and urine, and making him bathe in water from the Ganges. “This issue has bothered me since,“ says Pathak, 66, who describes himself as a humanist and social reformer, “If they continue to clean human excreta, they will not be accepted into society,“ Discrimination against scavengers is only part of India’s sanitation issue. Today, despite India’s rollicking economic growth, some 110 million households remain without access to a toilet and 75% of the country’s surface water is contaminated by human and agricultural waste. More than half a million children die each year from preventable water-and sanitation-related diseases

such as diarrhea, cholera and hepatitis. Pathak, who lived with a colony of untouchables for three months in 1968—“If you want to work for a community,“ he says, “then you must build rapport within that community“—realized the only way to solve the problem was to develop a clean method of human waste disposal that would be cost-effective for the average Indian household and would, at the same time, rid the country of the practice of scavenging. He developed the technology for a new toilet and founded the nonprofit Sulabh Sanitation Movement to bring his creation to those who needed it the most. Pathak’s twin-pit toilet, which costs a minimum of $15 to make, can be installed in any village, house or mud hut. While one pit is in use, the other is left covered. Within two

Discrimination against scavengers is only part of India’s sanitation issue

years, the waste in the covered pit will dry up, ridding itself of pathogens, so that it’s suitable for use as fertilizer. The toilets use 0.4 gal. (1.5 L) of water per flush, as opposed to the 2.6 gal. (10 L) required by conventional toilets. They also eliminate the need for manual scavenging, so Pathak’s NGO—now called the Sulabh International Social Service Organization—also runs rehabilitation programs for out-of-work scavengers, teaching them the skills they need to find new jobs. In 2013, Pathak set up a vocational center in Alwar, Rajasthan, where women are trained in tailoring, embroidery, food- processing and beauty treatments. Last year, some three dozen of the trainees were flown to New York City to participate in a fashion show held at the U.N. headquarters to mark the International Year of Sanitation. More recently, Pathak has perfected an excreta based biogas plant that generates biogas to be used for heating, cooking and electricity. He’s constructed 68 such plants in India. His toilets, the design of which he’s made available to NGOs around the country, are used by 10 million people daily, helping push the number of people in rural India with access to a toilet from 27% five years ago to 59% today. Pathak’s technology has also been used to construct over 5,500 public-toilet complexes in cities across south and central Asia, for people who are homeless or who have no sanitation in their houses. The word sulabh—which means simple in Hindi—has become synonymous with the public toilet. Although the practice of manual scavenging became illegal in India in 1993, there are still 115,000 scavengers working in the country today. But thanks to his innovation and his rehabilitation programs, Pathak estimates that India will be scavengerfree within five years. “If the government wanted, they could solve the problem in a single day,” he says. “But I’ll take the pessimistic view.”— BY MRIDU KHULLAR/NEW DELHI

CASTE AWAY Bindeshwar Pathak Sulabh International

I have a dream… that one day all of God’s children will be able to join hands and sing… Free at last!Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Martin Luther King Jr, speaking on 28th August, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

When Bindeshwar was a young boy, his grandmother once made him eat cowdung to ‘purify’ himself, after contact with an untouchable. The same Brahmin boy grew up to lead a movement we know as ‘Sulabh’. A revolution in toilets and a rightful place in society, for those who once cleaned them. I have many beautiful memories of summers spent in my ‘native place’. But the one thing I’d rather forget is the toilet. The toilet from hell. It was a raised platform with a hole. No flush, no sanitation, no escape from that god-awful stench. My aunt would say, “Put Vicks, you won’t smell anything”. Fat chance of that! For days, I would simply not use the toilet. But how long could one hold back? Thoughts like these cross my mind on a beautiful February morning under a gorgeous blue sky. I am at the Sulabh complex near Palam in New Delhi, home to the world’s only museum dedicated to toilets. And to the one man who’s made it his mission to bring sanity to this country’s archaic systems - both social and sanitary. Bindeshwar Pathak is a sprightly sixty-something. Dressed in khadikurta and white churidarpyjama, he looks like a village headmaster. And each morning, he plays that part, as he leads the ‘morning assembly’ at the Sulabhcampus. “Aao sab mil julke banaye in sulabh sukhad sansaaar…!” sings the Sulabh family. Over hot tea and pakoras. In his expansive air conditioned office. With a lilting Bihari accent. Bindeshwar Pathak shares his story. And it is simply amazing, it is breath taking, it is so honest, almost too-good-to-be-true. As Bindeshwar himself would say, “Hai kinai?” Jee, hai to sahi. Aur agar hai to hamare desh mein aage ki peedhi ke liye hope hai. A single person can move mountains, perform miracles. And that person could be you…

BBC HORIZONS has featured Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s invention of the Sulabh toilet technology as one of the five inventions of the world*

BBC World News Horizons explores why human waste is one of biggest public health issues facing world today

BBC Correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan visits New Delhi in India to examine the twin-pit toilet invented by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement. Already improving sanitation for an estimated 10 million people daily, the simple toilet uses two pits dug into the ground connected to a traditional squat lavatory. This reduces water use and needs no chemicals to treat the waste

“Less than half of India’s population has access to an indoor toilet; in fact more people in the country own a mobile phone. With very few public lavatories many people are forced to go in the open that has huge health consequences particularly for women and children. Over the years there has been very little interest or investment in this sector but one man is using innovation to try and change that. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is an internationally recognized, sanitation pioneer and Founder of Sulabh International, the largest non-profit organisation in India.” *featured on the programme BBC Horizons on 27.10.2013/ 30.03.2014

Source: Video link:


Transcript of the programme

BBC HORIZONS telecast on 27.10.2013/ 30.03.2014


anitation and how we deal with human waste is a huge problem especially in many of the emerging economies which often have unplanned and sprawling cities. In Asia many countries don’t have waste water treatment centres and it is said that in India some children drop out of school because they don’t have access to clean, modern toilet facilities. 69

In Delhi, Rajini Vaidyanathan has been finding out how one simple solution is already bringing better sanitation to an estimated 10 million people a day. Less than half of India’s population have access to an indoor toilet; in fact more people in the country own mobile phone.With very few public lavatories, many people are forced to go in the open that have huge health consequences particularly for women and children. Over the years there has been very little interest or investment in this sector but one man is using innovation to try and change that….. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is an internationally recognized, sanitation pioneer and Founder of Sulabh International, the largest non-profit organisation in India. Rajini Vaidyanathan: So, what access to toilets like today? Dr. Pathak: Even today 70% people in the rural areas have no access to safe and hygienic toilets. They go for defecation in the open and in urban areas still 23% people don’t have these facilities. Rajini Vaidyanathan: Whats problems the people then are at risk at if they are going, you know to the toilet in the open? Dr. Pathak: It causes 50 diseases. Most important is cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, sometimes epidemics, hookworms, roundworms. Rajini Vaidyanathan: And that's because faecel matter in just left in the open and the sun. To overcome the problem of providing sanitation in areas without access to a sewage system, Dr. Pathak invented a simple toilet using two pit dug it into the ground, connected to the traditional squat lavatory which reduces water use and needs no chemicals to treat it.

Dr. Pathak: Yes, it decomposes because the bacteria is in the soil. RajiniVaidyanathan: Over the times the sludge is digested using already present anaerobic bacteria and creates almost dry pathogens-free, safe manure which can be used as fertilizer. How many have you have got these across India. How are they working now? Dr. Pathak: We have installed about 1.3 million toilets like this. Rajini Vaidyanathan: 1.3 million, that’s incredible. Rajini Vaidyanathan: So the most places we would go to India we could see these. Dr. Pathak: Yes, ofcourse RajiniVaidyanathan: Ok now we can go and have a look at that now. Rajini Vaidyanathan: As well as installations funded by the Government. Sulabh’s built more than seven and a half thousand public toilet complexes which isfunded by charging users a small fee. So Gaurav, this is one of the two pit toilets in action…….its in a temple. Sulabh Representative: By chance this today has the time to get cleaned so you will be able to see there is no smell, there is no pathogens, bacteria is coming out. Rajini Vaidyanathan: I am a bit nervous about things,whatsunderneath there? We got a gentlemen who is gonnacome and help us, have a look.Alright this is the moment of the truth.

You do that to clean. So, comes down this pipe here, costing as little 15 dollars to build. The twin-pit system uses just 1.5 litres of water per flush compared to the conventional flush toilet which uses around twelve. Now what happens next?

Sulabh Representative: No, you come and stand close and smell it here. Don’t worry…… Now you can see, there is no smell inside it.

Dr. Pathak: Now here just see in the bottom

Sulabh Representative: Yeah…yeah…….

Rajini Vaidyanathan: And explain this to me then

Rajini Vaidyanathan: No, there is no smell, to be fair.

Dr. Pathak: This is soil, there is no concrete

Sulabh Representative: The bacteria hasdied out. The pathogens have died out so there is no problem in touching them. Now the only thing what you do is that you pick it up, keep it outside into the Sun or may be in the open for one day and those people who are taking care of plants and you know growing the plants. They will come, they will take it.

RajiniVaidyanathan: So this is a soil bottom. Dr. Pathak: Yes Rajini Vaidyanathan: So what about the holes around the wall. What are they for? Dr. Pathak: The holes and the bottom, both have functions and they absorb water and the gases.


Rajini Vaidyanathan: The pits are used alternately when one is full, the excreta is diverted into the second pit. Ok so basically the human faeces mixed with the water becomes part of the soil over time.

Rajini Vaidyanathan: Can I? fantastic

Sulabh Representative: Probably this is finest manure you can get. Sulabh Representative: No, the best manure, organic manure in the world. Rajini Vaidyanathan: Oh wow that is incredible science. Isn’t it?... 71

Rajini Vaidyanathan: It is very simple. You got human waste coming downthe toilet, sits here for a couple of years and becomes this. Recent developments also allow the methane gases to be harvested during the digesting process and used as a fuel for lighting and cooking. It may be difficult for many people to comprehend but billions of people around the world still don’t have access to any form of sophisticated sanitation, but its cheap and simple solution which deal with human waste at source such as this two pit toilet which can really make a difference particularly in countries like here in India where there is little or no clean water and limited access to sewerage system. But the biggest challenge is the sheer scale of it.You need a lot more of these to really make a difference. Simple sanitation technologies which don’t rely on expensive infrastructure offer huge potential for reducing disease in many parts of the world. Yet we just don’t need new technologies to improve this problem, we need a change of philosophy to stop thinking of sewage as something to be disposed of and seeing it as a natural resource laden with nutrients and energy that we can use to make money and actually solve some of the problems the world is facing.



Le Monde Magazine

The Guru of Toilets JP Géné, Special Correspondent in India

Half of Indians do not have W.C. or are satisfied with the latrines of another era which are emptied /cleaned everyday by women situated at the lowest rank of the society. Bindeshwar Pathak has decided to liberate them from this humiliating condition.


t was in the beginning of the last century when the sun never set in the empire of Her Very Gracious Majesty. A lady, who wanted to go to India, wrote to the master of the School enquiring about the conditions of stay/lodging and eventually about the presence of W.C. in the village that she wanted to visit. The recipient was greatly perplexed at this unknown abbreviation. What could W.C. mean? After a lot of reflection and debate with the local Pandit, the only lettered man in the village, he deduced that the lady wanted to know if there existed any Wayside Chapel, a chapel in the vicinity.

And the local master took his best pen to write back to her, “Dear Madam, I have great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is at 9 kilometers from the house, in the midst of a charming grove of pine, surrounded by green pasture. The W.C. can welcome 229 persons sitting and functions on every Sunday and Thursday. I suggest you to go there early, specially during the months of summer when there is a big gathering. One can pretty well stay standing but it will be very uncomfortable for you, specially if you go there often. Please know that my daughter is married there as she met her would be spouse there

Well doer/good man, like Gandhi, to whom they pay homage, Bindeshwar Pathak, a Brahman went against the caste system for changing the fate reserved to cleaners of latrines


(…….) Please know also that many people take their lunch for passing the entire day there. Others prefer to come at the last moment. I would recommend/ request Madam to come there on a Thursday, the day when you may have the choir also. The acoustics is excellent and the most delicate sounds can be appreciated from everywhere. Recently, a bell has been installed which tolls for every new entrant. A small bazar offers specially comfortable cushions well appreciated by people. It will be a pleasure for me to accompany you there personally and find you a good place for all night. With profoundest regards, the Instructor/teacher.” This story, whether true or legendary, perfectly illustrates the sanitary situation in India. Many of those who ignored W.C. ignore it even today, in a country which has more mobile phones than toilets: 545 millions as against 366 million for a population of about a thousand millions (source United Nations University Canada).

Whoever has travelled in this sub-continent has seen the line of people of all ages, sitting by the side of the road or rail lines since early hours of day for relieving their need in open air. Their heads suddenly come up in the field of maize while adjusting their dhoti or kurta. These morning walkers get a place on a floating bridge for defecating and washing themselves in the stream. 600 millions of Indians everyday do this. More than 900 millions of litres of urine, 135 million of tones of faecal material are released everyday in nature, according to the experts. How to manage this volume, when hardly 200 out of 5000 townships have partial sewerage system, often dilapidated and ill maintained? This absence of sanitation and lack of public and private hygiene cause more than 450000 deaths every year (diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera) and cost a budget of more than 37 thousand millions of Euro to the nation, according to an estimate of the Programme “Water and Purifications”, of the World Bank, published in December 2010 (The Economic

A job of women, India would count about 400000 scavengers responsible for cleaning latrines. 90% are women, men of the caste being mostly responsible for carrying garbage or cleaning roads/ streets


impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in India). One can accumulate the numbers for blackening the table. It is worse. Lots of existing toilets are simple latrines, without flush or septic tank, which have to be cleaned manually every morning, of the “night-soil”. There are people for this. The Harijans, the Dalits, the Untouchables, one names them as one wants, are so low in the social rank that they are called ‘out caste’. And, amongst them, the Bhangis, the sanitation men, are those who are born to clean and will marry someone who will clean up, and thus will clean all their life. Born as Bhangi, they die as Bhangi. They are also named in English as scavenger. According to 2001 census, more than 400000 people clean up the shit of others. The women in 90% of cases, even after a century, have to put on a bell around their neck to signify their arrival so that others can get away. Equipped with a can and a broom, they leave their ‘designated’ part of the town to go around the latrines to transport the ‘content’ on their heads, out of the walls. Whether it rains or it is scorching sun, they have to do their “job” in exchange for a few rupees (calculated as per the number of persons in the house hold), often the remains of the food of previous evening, and always the despise of others.

The Aims of a Life

“One who is condemned for a crime comes out of prison after the term in jail is complete. Those who are locked in a social prison never come out.” The diagnostics of sociologist Bindeshwar Pathak is implacable. Today 68, clad in traditional Kurta, he decided 40 years ago to put an end to this situation. According to him, Indians have to stop going in open air for their needs and the scavenger women have to be liberated of their slavery and have to be brought out of untouchability conditions. It would be the aim of his life. 76

Born in a family of Brahmans, in Rampur Baghel, a small village in Bihar in eastern part of India, Bindeshwar was brought up with strong respect for castes. “My paternal grand-father was an astrologer, my father an Ayurvedic doctor and my grand mother very orthodox. We did not disobey her”. Very young, he learnt from her that he should not touch nor meet some people with whom she behaved unpleasantly when they came towards the family household: “They are untouchables” Obviously the young boy had a desire to touch them “to see if they were any different from others”. The extreme anger of his grand-mother might be known to entire vicinity, she would inform the priest who would force the boy to dip in the Ganga water and to gulp down the urine and cow dung (considered sacred) for purification. He was ten years old and would never forget how at 4 A.M. in the morning all women of the house surreptitiously slipped out of the house for “responding to the needs of nature” in the nearby fields while profiting of the darkness for escaping other’s eyes. Only the richest land holder of the village had a latrine and each day, while going to school, Bindeshwar came across the women who cleaned up the latrine and carried the excreta on their head. “I observed but I was not conscious of the problem”. Shame. A broom and a can, carrying on head, symbol of misfortune of He confronted the problem scavengers just by chance, in 1968, while taking tea on the platform of Hajipur (Bihar). Two elderly people, close to his maternal grandfather who had accompanied Gandhi on his tours, accosted and persuaded him to join the Bihar Gandhi Birth Centenary Celebration Committee, its sessions were going to take place in Patna on the occasion of the birth centenary of Mahatma (1869-1948). By this time, Bindeshwar had of course read the biography

of Gandhi but he was hardly familiar with his ideas. He was going to discover these in the committee, where he was attached to the section responsible for rehabilitation of scavengers and for eradication of the status of untouchability. Since 1901, the young Gandhi, still unknown, had stupefied the members of Congress Party in Calcutta by taking a can and a broom for cleaning the toilet and for denouncing the undignified life and conditions of the scavengers. In his Sabarmati Ashram, founded in 1917, he had made the rule that everyone cleans up one’s own toilet. During his entire life, the problem of hygiene and the fate of Bhangis haunted Mahatma, who made a vow “Perhaps I will never be reborn, but if it happens, I would like to be born in the family of Bhangis and be able to liberate them from this inhuman, insane and hassling practice of carrying excreta on their head”. It occurred to Bindeshwar Pathak to execute this vow. “I did not know about the problem, had no competence nor any qualification as an engineer and moreover I was a Brahman”. He opens up to his superior who replies: “It does not matter; I have seen the light on your face and I am sure you will be the best for this task”. And Bindeshwar begins the job by the most radical manner. He went to live with Bhangis for three months. The first day he discovers that they don’t clean up their toilets which are in repulsive/ repugnant dirty state. He did it himself before the astounded eyes of his room mates. “My first action was to convince them to do for themselves what they do for others.” He familiarized himself with their style of living, the drinks, the games, the obligations to the newly wed to obey the mother-in-law and to go with her to clean the toilet. And a commotion in his family, for a son who is a traitor to his caste by going along with the untouchables. Rejected by the Brahman community which disallowed him to sit by his side. His father-in-law cries for the humiliation to his daughter; Bindeshwar had just married in an arranged marriage. He did not submit and pursued his mission. More as a duty than as sacrifice. Till the day a boy got himself hurt by a buffalo’s horns in the street. People came to his help but suddenly,

a voice raised, “This is an untouchable”. “Everyone went aside, leaving the body”, he remembers. “I took him to hospital alone but he was dead by the time we arrived”. This was at Bettiah, a town of the district of West Champaran (Bihar), the place where the young Gandhi had initiated Satyagraha – the non-violent civil disobedience – against the planters of Indigo. A sign for Bindeshwar. That day, he makes a sermon of realizing the wish of Mahatma and tells this to his nearones, “You have still seen nothing. Hence forward, I will do nothing but this: eradicate untouchability and take out scavengers from their conditions”.

A Salutary Invention

To achieve this, he understood very fast that there was only one effective means: create an alternative to the latrines, simple and cheap, which render the job of scavenger useless. He then drowned himself to specialized works and soon arrived at the conclusion that out of all the invented systems, “that with the double pit appears to be the most practical and most suitable at the global level”. The “twin-pit pour-flush compost toilet” was born. The principle was simple: the WC in Turkish style, a pan of sharp slope, and a special siphon with hydraulic joint which does not require more than 1.5 to 2 litres of water for being cleaned. The WC is linked to two separate pits used alternatively. As soon as one is full, we leave it to dry up allowing it to become compost and the other is used. Their volume is calculated with respect to the number of users and in 2-3 years one pit is filled up. Scavengers are no more required. Those days a “twinpit system” cost only 10 U.S. dollars. We are in 1970. Gandhi Centenary Celebration Committee had stopped its activities and Bindeshwar found himself alone with his invention. The members of the committee suggested him to found an NGO. This was done on 5 March 1970 with the birth of Sulabh (Sulabh International Social Service Organisation). On the demand of local officials, he equips the municipal building and the platform at Arrah – at 50 kms from Patna, the capital of Bihar. Inspite of the welcome by people, Bindeshwar gets little response: “An NGO or a government cannot 77

Progress. This sanitary complex with bath, toilets and cloakrooms, situated at Shirdi (Maharashtra) where lived in 19th century a famous guru and since then a place for pilgrimage, was constructed by Sulabh NGO

realize alone the social programmes; each one on his side, they have to work together”. To arrive at this, there was a need “of a letter which can lift mountains” addressed to the government of Bihar and signed by a magical surname Gandhi and name Indira. In this missive, the lady in power at Delhi expresses surprise at non-application of the “fourth clause of the plan aiming at eliminating the odious practice of carrying the fecal material on head” and asks the government of the state to “pay special attention to the problem”. The voice was now open. Bindeshwar, now with the support of the administration constructs the public toilets all over Bihar and to the individuals who received special grants for getting their latrines changed. He took up special bet on paid WC (today it costs one rupee, half of two centimes of a euro). Many people rallied against this “toll” which was incompatible to their local mentality. But they were wrong because Sulabh in exchange engaged in maintaining the place clean, the staff kept the place guarded. The day the first WC was opened at Patna, more than 500 persons used it and paid. “This was the beginning of all”. The towns and then the neighboring states get interested. 78

Now the U.N., with the World Health Organisation, recognized the validity of the system. The Sulabh NGO has today made more than 1.2 million of private toilets, more than 7500 public sanitation centres, at hundreds of places, out of which many have bath facilities and cloak facilities, and are also situated at pilgrim centres. They are in 1250 towns, in all states of the country, and more than 10 million Indians use the facilities everyday. In matter of sanitation programmes in poor countries, Sulabh is hence forward a reference. And the Bhangis? The NGO claims 640 towns “free of scavengers” and more than 120,000 untouchables came out of their condition. Alwar, in Rajasthan, with 300000 population is one of the “liberated” cities. Thanks to the installation of a training center Nai Disha – where various workshops (sewing, cutting, embroidery, body-care, making of cakes/ biscuits, pasta/ noodles) occupied 160 women during our visit. Here, everything started in 2002 when Bindeshwar Pathak while passing through Alwar with a team of B.B.C, shouted at a group of women scavengers, “Why do you do this work?” They reply, “because we don’t know to do anything else”. “And if I propose

hair cutting, cabinet-making (woodwork), work of mechanic, initiation to computers…... hundreds of children and apprentices. When the women of Alwar arrive, they touch them, they greet them, they talk to them as one talks to ‘normal’ people. And, to prove that they are normal, Bindeshwar invites them to the restaurant of Maurya Sheraton, a 5-Star hotel. Big effect on the invitees who are “full of confidence and joy”. They recounted all this faithfully at Hazuri gate, where they had to take up their work full of ingratitude. They had to wait for one year before the opening Double Pit in place of unhealthy toilets. Sulabh NGO is trying to popularize this type of simple and cheap toilets which consume less water of the centre of Nai Disha, and even then they did not come. To the eyes of the elderly, for whom nothing was possible, a big uncertainty continued: if they don’t clean any you to do something else, will you accept it?” Usha more latrines, how will they earn their livelihood. Chaumar, an earlier scavenger, remembers, “I had Bindeshwar promised a scholarship of Rs. 1500/remarked – do you know someone who wants to do per month (the scavengers did not earn more than this job?” The same evening, many dozens of them Rs. 300 to 400 per month) to all those who join Nai came at Hazuri gate, the area of the untouchables, Disha, but still no one came. They are less than thirty around Bindeshwar Pathak who came to explain his to get registered. project, “create a centre for teaching them another “The first day, I went to do my work before coming job and to definitely take them out of latrines. They to the centre”, remembers Usha. As soon as the first listened, gently nodding their head. Sceptical. He was pay arrived, everything changed. “I put the money in not the first social worker to visit them. They know a small box in the house and I showed them to other that words are rarely followed by action and the women”. This was the proof that this man was true to elderly are there to kill the dreams of the young. “No his words and then the volunteers came. And those one touches you. Who will teach you?” who had lost their scavengers, some came to the area The sentence in English is terrible, “No one of untouchables to ask them to take up their jobs. The touches you, who will teach you?” This was the scavenger women did not give up, forgetting their general sentiment in the community. And now for cans and brooms, the instrument of their misfortune. Bindeshwar to convince them of their sincerity. “Have Another life started for them, liberated from the you ever been to Delhi?” He asked them. Obviously, constraints of their caste. no one had visited the capital. And he invites them To make it known in a spectacular way, Sulabh with husband and children. organized in July 2008 an event well reported by Press: a fashion parade by ex-scavengers in company Another Life of Indian models in headquarters of United Nations The Sulabh NGO was henceforward well established at New York. Some thirty of them boarded aeroplane in its Palam Campus, not far from the airport of Delhi. for the first time, they posed at the feet of the Statue Classes of English in school for untouchables’ children of Liberty and put on Saris designed by a big fashion mixed with other castes, workshop of stitching, 79

designer of Delhi. Neetu was there. At her home, at Hazuri gate, she is not tired of telling about her travel before her neighbours and her husband, wisely sitting on a canape, hands crossed on knees, intimidated before this assembly of women. “We walked with models wearing the dresses that we have ourselves stitched. We were doing honour to India”. From these women people turned away earlier and now they are looked at with envy; while one meets her man on the street, one murmurs, “This is the husband of the woman who went to New York!” We met Dolly at Tonk, another town “free of scavengers”, two hours away from Jaipur in Rajasthan. She started this work at 13 with her mother and sister. She is now 21. She is jolly, live with sparkling eyes, wearing her red sari with a natural elegance and replying tac to tac to her interlocutors. She cleaned latrines in the morning, and went to school in the afternoon. Dolly wanted to learn and in 2008, she rejoined Sulabh after having successfully convinced her grandmother.

Pride. Ex-scavenger, Usha Chaumar (in blue) was invited at U.N.O. at New York

The Flame of Gandhi There years later, she is one of the first to be emancipated gradually from the centre of learning to lead her boat. She left for a few hours the marriage of her sister, for driving us to her new friend, Beena, to whom she teaches the art of hemming and crossstitching. The young women offer us tea in the bedroom of Beena, the room of an ordinary girl, with posters on the wall, and the soft-toys on the quilt. A scene unimaginable three years ago: Dolly cleaned up the latrine of Beena and could have never entered into the intimate parts of the house. Today she gives her the lesson of stitching. A Bhangi friend with a Rajput, who tells her about her marriage in front of us. She does not know the ‘lucky boy’ – of the same caste – chosen by her parents, but she will have the right to refuse. Dolly congratulates her. “You who have broken the caste by coming out of latrines, are you going to marry in the same caste?” “Absolutely” the reply is instantaneous. Marriage is not her present concern – she prefers a scholarship and pursuing her studies but, in no case, does she think of marriage out of her caste. Dolly puts it all on her parents, “They know better than us”. On the other hand, she would demand from her future husband, “an engagement written and signed” according to which neither she nor her children will ever be scavengers or even cleaners. No question of cleaning for others whoever it may be. “Never” in a flat tone without any appeal/ request. If Usha, Neetu, Dolly and dozens of thousands of other untouchable women could breach the law of their caste, thanks to the one whom they call “bapu”, Bindeshwar Pathak, their second father, who believed in the precepts of another “bapu”, the Mahatma Gandhi, and applied them. In this country, launched in the society of consumption where body and soul are lost, the journey and work of this man of goodness, known and appreciated all over the world shows that the flame of Gandhi is still alive. In India, a Brahman can still change the life of the poor with few things: with the simple water closets.

Note: *This is the english translation of the original article which was published in Fench.


LOKMAT TIMES (City Pulse) 26th December, 2010

'We have Tech & Methodology but no Strategy' By Bagish K Jha NAGPUR: "Those who willingly help others are true Gandhians," says Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, one of the biggest NGOs in India and a pioneer in low cost sanitation. In 1969 Dr. Pathak became a member of a committee formed during the Gandhi centenary celebrations in Patna. The aim of the committee was to liberate scavengers. The committee failed to make the desired impact. But Pathak did. He started the Sulabh Shauchalaya in 1970 by designing a flush toilet, which functioned without being connected to the sewerage. His organisation has since then constructed 1.2 million Sulabh Shauchalayas, 7,500 public toilet-cum-bath complexes, 200 nightsoil based biogas plants and have liberated and rehabilitated more than a million scavengers and trained 7,000 wards of liberated scavengers. For all these accomplishments, he has been awarded with the Padma Bhushan, the International Saint Francis Prize for the Environment, the NRI Gold Award, Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment 2000 and the most recent Stockholm Water Prize in year 2009. Despite his long list of achievements Dr. Pathak, a Gandhian at heart, believes that there is still a long way to go, before we achieve our socioenvironmental goal. He visited Lokmat office on Saturday evening, wherein he was welcomed by Chairman of Lokmat Media Ltd. and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Darda.

The man who gave new meaning to sanitation through his innovations, has come up with yet another innovation–optimised water conservation sanitation system. Which requires only 1.5 liters of water per flush, in contrast to conventional toilets that require a minimum of 10 liters. "In total we have six billion toilets in the world and we use 60 billion liters of water per uses of flush, through this new system we can save 54 billion of water per flush," said Pathak adding that it is remarkable in a time when people are predicting that the third world war will be fought over water. "We have technology, methodology but no strategy. Still 2.6 billion people are deprived of sanitation and if we go by the present system, it will take 3000 years to provide sanitation facilities to everyone," observed Dr. Pathak adding that we need missionaries of sanitation to achieve this goal in a short span of time. Appreciate his social contribution and Dr. Pathak says that he is just taking forward the movement of Gandhi. "People are only following the life-style of Gandhi, I am trying to execute his philosophy. Gandhi's thoughts and ideas are relevant even today, we just need to find out the ways to adopt it," said he. And that is why Gandhi's son once said, "I am the son of Gandhi, but Dr. Pathak is the son of Gandhi's soul. If we together go to meet Gandhi in heaven, he will first hug Dr. Pathak."


First brush with the issue of untouchability

Making Bharat Swachh since 4 decades The Sulabh Shauchalya man Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak ‘Swachh Bharat’ is recent. ‘Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are post Y2K. But there is a visionary, who started over 4 decades back. His resolve to uplift the lot of the scavenger (manual cleaners and carriers of human excreta) community, paved the way for the biggest sanitation wave in India and the world. Every Indian knows of Sulabh Shauchalaya, but not many know the story of the man behind the sanitation giant – Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. The man has over 46 awards, 8 fellowships, and 5 memberships, some of which include the Padma Bhushan (1991), Stockholm Water Prize (2009), International Saint Francis Prize, UNEP Global 500 Scroll of Honour Award, and the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour; the list is endless.

“When I was a boy, a lady used to come to my home to deliver bamboo objects. When the lady used to leave, my grandmother would sprinkle the entire house with holy water. I was curious about this lady. Many people used to come to our house, but my grandmother didn’t sprinkle water those times. I asked my grandmother and she said that the lady is untouchable and if I touch her, I would get polluted. My curiosity led me to touch the lady and I found no change in my body! My grandmother made a hue and cry and summoned the Pandit to come and tell the family of how we could overcome this crime. I was looked at as a criminal.” The Pandit came up with a solution. “If you put cow dung in his mouth, cow urine to drink and make him bathe in the holy river (during winters), then he will be pure.” Young Dr. Pathak went through this ordeal and this was his first brush with the issue of untouchability in India.

I wanted to be a teacher “I came first in my second year and got scholarship as well. But I took up criminology as a subject in my third year and could not do well in that paper. As a result, my total score dropped and I missed out on the opportunity of being a lecturer, which was my ambition.” He then became a school teacher in a high school. The salary was low. “It wasn’t even $2 a month”, says Dr. Pathak. He then moved onto a business related to medicines for a year. He decided to go back to studying but destiny had other plans. “I believe in God and Destiny. I was travelling to get admission in Sagar University in Madhya Pradesh by train. I got down at Hajipur (Bihar) to have tea, and two persons came to me and told me about this amazing job with benefits. I abandoned my train journey and went to the place. The man-in-charge got up and said – ‘who told you there is a permanent job? This committee is only for 3 years, of which only 2 years are left’” With the vacancy at Sagar university gone, Dr. Pathak stayed back in Hajipur and took up this job where he just translated from Hindi to English and vice versa, that too without a salary! In 1967, Rajendra Lal Das, a Sarvodaya Member appealed to him to align himself with the issues that Mahatma Gandhi felt strongly about – the social issues the scavenger community is fraught with and the ways to liberate them. “In Sociology, we were taught that if we want to understand a community, we have to be a part of them.” He decided to live in a scavenger colony in Bettiah district of Bihar for three months. A Brahmin staying in an untouchable community was a crime in the 60s’.

3 months that changed everything “One day, I saw a newly-wed girl from the community, crying bitterly because her in-laws were forcing her to go to Bettiah town to clean toilets. I asked the mother-in-law – Why are you forcing



her? The mother-in-law replied – What will she do anyway? If she sells vegetables, no one will buy from her.” Dr. Pathak says that this is one of the black spots in Indian history that if you have committed a crime, not a heinous one, you can be released from jail but Indian society is such that if you’re born an untouchable, you will die an untouchable and suffer with scant chance of escape. Another incident of a boy dying because people refused to help the untouchable scavenger boy, hit Dr. Pathak deeply. Dr. Pathak’s father-in-law did not agree with Dr. Pathak’s ways. “He was a doctor, a rich man. I don’t want to see your face! Our culture is not such to reply to elders. But

require manual cleaning of human excreta. This toilet was named Sulabh Shauchalaya, which could be adopted in different hydro-geological conditions with some precautions. The two-pit pour-flush toilet was successfully introduced in urban areas. It was found to be a safe and hygienic system for the disposal of human waste in the absence of sewers and septic tanks. Before his arrival on the scene nobody, including engineers, was ready to believe that this technology could work in urban areas.”

Then to Now In 1973, he was given Rs. 500 to build two Sulabh Shauchalayas for demonstration in the compound of the Arrah Municipality, a small town of Bihar. Since then Sulabh Shauchalaya has converted about 1.3 million bucket toilets into Sulabh Shauchalayas throughout the country; and more than a million scavengers have been liberated with more than 640 towns made scavenging-free.

“When I started in 1973, I was the only one, not just in India but the world. And in Bihar, when I went to talk about toilets, the man I was speaking to said – let’s talk after tea. How can we talk about toilets while having tea!This was the condition in Bihar that nobody wanted to talk about toilets.”

that day I said – Look, I have begun turning the pages of history of India and to fulfil the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi.” “I then took a vow. I will fulfil the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. This is the beginning of the beginning of my whole journey”. He decided to liberate scavengers through low cost sanitation by inventing the twin-pit pour-flush model. The Sulabh technology is very well explained in the manual by Sulabh International – “The Sulabh technology is a very simple device. It consists of two pits with sealed covers and a water seal. Both the pits are used alternately. After one pit fills, excreta is diverted into the second pit, keeping the first pit in a ‘rest period’ for 2 years, during which excreta converts to solid, odourless, pathogen-free manure. It can be dug out easily by the beneficiary and used as manure. This technology does not 84

“There was a meeting in the Bihar government. There were two officials, one the secretary of the department (now called urban development) and the other the administrator of the Patna municipal corporation who was an IAS Engineer who put his foot down because being an engineer himself, he had not learnt of the technology. He decided that the Sulabh Shauchalaya project will not take off till he continued as the Administrator of Patna. The secretarial department came to Dr. Pathak’s rescue, and the official said: “I don’t agree with your views, this is a new technology. We will allow this man to put up 200 toilets in Bihar, and if it works, it will change the history of India”. Sulabh replaced bucket toilets in Bihar. The people who earlier wanted a septic tank model, now began demanding the Sulabh Shauchalaya system. The pilot that started in 1973, gave way to one of the biggest waves in sanitation across the world. The UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) even has a detailed report on the workings and success of the programme. The 2002 summit in Johannesburg, the World Summit on Sustainable Development put down a goal of providing 2.6 billion toilets around the world by 2015 and to the entire population by 2025. Dr. Pathak comments, ... read more on

In the last 13 years, the number has only come down to 2.5. Why? Because they are still depending on the sewerage system and they have not adopted the Sulabh Shauchalaya technology so far. Africa, Asia and Latin America have to depend on Sulabh Shauchalaya technologies. These three regions have no money and need optimization. Even the countries that have the money and are technologically advanced, Japan for example, use tankers to bring the waste to a factory to convert waste to fertilizer. Why have a septic tank, then clean the human excreta, then get it to the factory and covert to fertilizer? 85

Economic benefits Sulabh International Social Service Organization has gone ahead and done the math. They have drawn the economic burden comparison between the Sulabh two pit system and the traditional septic tank. The numbers are for everyone to see. Water saved in one year by the Sulabh two-pit system is 49056 million litres!

lessons. Then we started giving books. They are now able to apply for jobs that helps them earn 10-15 thousand a month. The community has branched into other professions and is freeing themselves. ” A staunch believer of Gandhian views and of Ambedkar as well, Dr. Pathak says, “I have not changed the caste; it’s the same caste now, status has changed. Now they’re not called untouchables. They go with Brahmins and upper caste to dine and to sit together. This great change has happened in the country. This is very important. We have brought together both the concept of Gandhi and Ambedkar. We have brought a change in the society’s social structure.”

On caste, uplift and education Dr. Pathak believes that in India, untouchables require social acceptance. He aligned his work with the guidelines given by late Dr. Ambedkar to understand whether untouchability has been eradicated or not. “When everybody will go to a temple to worship, when everybody will take bath in the same pond, everyone will draw water from the same well, and everybody will dine together. I fulfilled all these in two towns one of which is Alwar (Rajasthan).” Dr. Pathak stresses the fact that education is key to development for all spheres in society. “Any society has grown only because of education. We started giving the workers English and Hindi

His Motivation His mother used to say – always serve humankind.

“I feel happy. People ask me – how do you enjoy yourself? When I meet people, I feel very happy, I can see that I’m lucky to see that what I started off has brought change in my own lifetime. There is a sense of satisfaction.”

Not a Businessman, not a Social Entrepreneur, but a Social Scientist “Business I don’t like. By chance, when I started off, I was told by an IAS officer to not take grants and charge money for implementation of the programme and whatever is saved, pay your mason. Business means, earn more and spend less. Social programmes mean earn more and spend more and save less,” Dr. Pathak laughs and insists that he isn’t a social entrepreneur, but a social scientist.

“Entrepreneurship has come to me by accident. I’m not a businessman. I wanted to study social sciences and the society and its problems.” Despite a 275 crore social enterprise, Dr. Pathak is a humble man. He credits the change in the lives of untouchables in India to technological innovations in sanitation. His journey is one that will inspire many to look at social enterprise in a different light. Dr. Pathak is also proof that technology, innovation and impact go hand in hand.



AJ: Has the approach to toilets changed in India? Pathak: When I used to meet people in [the India state of Bihar in 1968, they used to discourage me to talk about toilets. Now talking about toilets has become common in this country and even the Prime Minister of India mentions about it; and we have been able to provide toilet related-solutions not only to India but also to 2.5 billion people across the globe who have no access to safe and hygienic toilets. The toilets are now being built by the NGOs, government bodies and others. The goal now is not only to build toilets but to also get people to use them.

Meet the ‘toilet man of India’ ALJAZEERA - Showkat Shafi | 21 Aug 2015 Dr Bindeshwar Pathak has built 1.3 million toilets in India where nearly half of billion plus people defecate in open. According to the UN, around 595 million people, or nearly half of India’s population, defecates in the open. In his first Independence Day address on August 15, 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the building of toilets in rural India, one of his government’s major priorities. A year later the Indian government claims that their “Clean India” campaign has since achieved the target of ensuring separate toilets for boys and girls in all schools across the country. They also claimed to have constructed around 800,000 toilets in rural India. But according to some reports in local media, while the toilets may be getting built, many villagers have refused to change their habits, and toilets are lying empty. Al Jazeera spoke to Dr Bindeshwar Pathak - founder of Sulabh International - who has made it his mission since Sulabh’s founding in 1970, to raise awareness of better hygiene through the building of toilets across the country. Al Jazeera: Why are there so many millions of Indians living without toilets? Pathak: In India in [the] Puranic period [Vedic period] it was suggested that Indians don’t defecate near human habitation. It was also suggested that one should go at a distance, dig a small pit, put some grass and leaves in it and then defecate. This practice of defecation in the open is still prevalent in India, especially in the rural areas, in urban slums and at places of religious gatherings. In earlier days, the villages had trees, bushes and raised mounds where one could take cover while defecating. This and the tropical climate only helped people to observe this practice freely. Therefore, it has cultural legacy; besides while many people do not have adequate money to build the toilets, in some cases no place is available to build the toilets. 88

AJ: How do you convince people and why are villagers refusing? How did you get involved in this field? Pathak: During childhood and formative years of my life, belonging to an orthodox Brahmin family and living in a village, I saw the elders and specially women of the family, including my mother and aunts being constrained to rise early in the morning and go out to the fields to ease themselves, and undergo the pain and discomfort of holding back the urge to evacuate during the day and wait till dark to go out to answer call of nature. I did not feel happy about all this. Secondly as a child I saw the person who used to come to clean the house being shunned and all of us being told not to touch because he was an untouchable. But out of curiosity I touched him, which was not taken favorably by my family members. My grandmother forced me to undergo a purification ritual of swallowing urine, sand and Ganges water. These experiences and incidents firmed my resolve to make it my mission to see that untouchability is mitigated and the obnoxious practice of defecating in the open is eliminated. More than 53 percent of Indian homes — about 70 percent in the villages — lack toilets [EPA] AJ: But how did you get involved in building toilets? What prompted you to build more than a million toilets in peoples’ homes? Pathak: My aim was to make people aware about importance of toilets and to let people know there are some 50 types of diseases that one can get from not having a toilet. Lack of toilets can cause diahorrea and dehydration, and mortality rate increases among children. My target was to provide safe and hygienic toilets to women so that they could use toilets in safety and with dignity, and girls go to schools. My aim was to rescue the untouchables from this sub-human occupation and to bring them in the mainstream of society which was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. My endeavor was also to demonstrate how toilets can be built and maintained for the use of people in the public places like bus stands, markets, railway stations etc. Since 1970, our NGO Sulabh, has converted and constructed 1.3 million household toilets and constructed and are maintaining more than 8,000 public toilets on “pay and use” basis all over the country, of which 200 of them are attached with biogas plants.


I invented the two-pit pour-flush ecologically compatible compost toilet … but all this required a great deal of effort moving from house to house motivating people overcoming their reluctance to install toilets in their houses. AJ: You mentioned safety and security for women. Pathak: Yes. There have been many instances where women and the girls were raped when they went outside for defecation. You must have read many times about this in newspapers. For example, how in Badaun two girls were raped and then hanged. We have built 108 individual household toilets to save the girls from harassment. If the toilets are built inside the houses, I think the incidence of rapes will decline. AJ: Since Narendra Modi became prime minister, he has spoken up about the need for improving sanitation, even launching a toilet campaign. But is it working? And is there any real success of the campaign on the ground? Pathak: Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign has ignited the minds of Indians and talking about toilets has become commonplace now. The whole nation has woken up and everywhere there is talk and attempt being made to provide toilets in both the places i.e. individual and public places. It is working well. The prime minister is the first person who has taken up this cause wholeheartedly. He is the first prime minister to talk about toilets, even with the President of America, Barack Obama. He has also talked about toilets in Australia and China. So the outcome of the campaign is gaining ground and the nation is on the march and the whole nation is agog with talk about toilets which is creating public opinion to see that by 2019 no one goes out to defecate in open.

In India’s ‘arsenic belt’, water project brings relief ALJAZEERA - 01 February 2016

West Bengal long suffered cancerous effects of arsenic-laced water, but projects to provide clean water show promise. - Shaikh Azizur Rahman

AJ: Do you think one day every Indian house will have its own toilet? Pathak: As the target set out by the prime minister to build toilet in all the houses by 2019, to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary, I hope by that year every house will have a toilet.

Arsenic-contaminated groundwater has killed scores of people in West Bengal. Experts recommend water in wells be tested for arsenic at least twice every year [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]

Madhusudankati, West Bengal, India - For decades, Manatosh Biswas - a farmer who lives in the middle of eastern India’s so-called “arsenic belt” - had no idea that he was drinking contaminated water. About 15 years ago, he sought treatment for some lesions on his feet and was told that he was suffering 90


from arsenicosis after having been exposed to the toxic element for years.

A dangerous drink

Doctors advised him to stop drinking the arsenic-contaminated groundwater from his village’s wells, but he could not afford to buy bottled water.

When the practice of drilling deep tube wells in eastern India began in the 1960s, people were advised to drink groundwater drawn through them to protect themselves from water-borne diseases such as cholera that often trigger epidemics. Later, tens of thousands of shallow tube wells were also sunk in the areas where aquifers lie closer to the ground.

Fortunately for Biswas, last year the Sulabh Safe Drinking Water Project (SSDWP), an initiative run by a New Delhi-based NGO, found a way to provide clean and cheap drinking water to the region. “This water costing one-third or one-fourth of the other, cheaper packaged water in the market has brought a big relief to all in my village,” Biswas told Al Jazeera. “Most of the poor residents in my village, who, for financial constraints, could not access arsenic-free packaged water, are drinking safe water after decades.”

Manatosh Biswas, 51, is suffering from Bowen’s disease - a pre-cancerous condition from drinking arsenic-contaminated water before the lesions appeared all over his body. He kept drinking the contaminated water in spite of warnings from doctors for almost 14 years because he could not afford to buy regular bottled drinking water [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/ Al Jazeera]

But in the 1990s, high levels of naturally occurring arsenic were detected in water drawn from tube wells in Bangladesh and eastern India. Drinking arsenic-rich water for a long period of time leads to arsenicosis, which causes skin lesions, cancer, and many other diseases. After scientists and doctors warned that millions of people in West Bengal were drinking the

A farmer waters his crops using groundwater at Teghoria village. Scientists have long warned that deadly arsenic is entering the food chain because of the rampant use of arsenic-rich groundwater in irrigation [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]

contaminated groundwater, the state government set up a number of groundwater de-arsenification plants. While regular bottled water may cost between four rupees (6 cents) and 15 rupees (22 cents) per litre, SSDWP is providing clean water to the villagers for 50 paise (1 cent) a litre. “Some among us got the Sulabh water tested at some labs and found it free from all contaminants, including arsenic,” said Biswas. “Also, it’s very cheap. This water has come as a wonderful gift for the poor people in our village.” A recent survey conducted by the NGO running the project found that arsenicosis victims who switched to drinking Sulabh water last year have seen rapid improvements in their health. 92

But most of them failed to effectively remove the arsenic from the water, and many scientists have long suggested that using treated surface water is a better solution to the problem - advice largely ignored by the government. Towards the end of 2014, Sulabh International Social Service Organisation (SISSO), a New Delhi-based NGO, set up the SSDWP with assistance from 1001 Fontaines, a French NGO. Managed by Madhusudankati Samabay Krishi Unnayan Samity, a local village cooperative, the project treats pond water using modern filtration technology and has succeeded in mitigating the arsenic problem 93

in some villages, said local residents, doctors, and those running the project. Kalipada Sarkar, who heads the Madhusudankati village cooperative, said this is the first project in the region to use pond water to produce potable water. “After running the plant for over a year, we find that our mission to provide clean water in about a dozen villages has been very successful,” Sarkar explained, adding that ponds used for the project are fenced off, and that villagers are not allowed to access them to bathe or do their laundry. “Every month, samples from our plant get tested at the lab of a reputed engineering college [the Indian

Inside the Sulabh Water plant at Madhusudankati. Workers collect treated pond water in refillable jars. The plant produces 4,000 litres of treated potable water every day [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]

Institute of Engineering and Science Technology]. They never found arsenic or any other substance, which makes water harmful for drinking, beyond permissible level,” said Sarkar. In an attempt to provide arsenic-free water, the Madhusudankati village cooperative initially set up an arsenic removal plant attached to a deep tube well. But that plant failed to solve the crisis, Sarkar said. “Safe disposal of the sludge generated at the plant, without contaminating the surface water sources with arsenic, was a very difficult task. Also, with time, we found that the contamination level with arsenic of the

groundwater was increasing. The situation was turning unmanageable and we were forced to shut it down,” he said. Since the Sulabh surface water project began functioning, it has been a “big relief ” for the mostly poor residents in the dozen villages served, said local doctor, Subal Sarkar (no relation to Kalipada Sarkar). “Among people who have been using the Sulabh water for some time now, the occurrence of dermatitis, dysentery, some gynecological diseases and other ailments, which are often caused by an overdose of arsenic in drinking water, has dropped considerably.

Water from this pond is used to feed the Sulabh Water plant at Madhusudankati village. ‘Bathing and washing of clothing are not allowed in this pond,’ warns a signboard by the pond [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]

Even in many cases arsenic keratoses [a type of skin growth] and other arsenic-triggered dark spots are fading away from the skins of the arsenicosis patients who have switched to drinking the Sulabh water,” Dr Sarkar told Al Jazeera. Surface water as a solution Six years ago, the School of Environmental Studies (SoES) at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University reported that in West Bengal, more than five million people were drinking water with arsenic contamination at 50 parts per billion (ppb) - five times the World Health Organisation’s permissible limit of 10ppb. SoES research director Dipankar Chakraborti, who has studied the arsenic problem in South Asia for



three decades, said that treating surface water can provide the best solution to arsenic-contaminated groundwater, given the abundance of ponds and small lakes in rural West Bengal. “We have seen how over the years most of the groundwater arsenic removal plants in West Bengal have failed to supply clean water. It’s heartening to know that some organisations have set up a drinking water project sourcing water from a pond,” said Chakraborti.

Most of the carrot fields in the area are irrigated by groundwater drawn from tube wells. Scientists have found that vegetables growing in the arsenic belt during the non-monsoon season are usually contaminated with arsenic Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]

People are collecting Sulabh Water from the Madhusudankati plant. Sulabh water is fast becoming popular among the villagers and Sulabh authorities are planning to increase the capacity of the plant [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]

“If they can keep the water finally free from pesticide, insecticide, fertiliser, harmful microbes, etc, the project will succeed to solve a decades-old problem of clean drinking water in some villages of the arsenicaffected region,” Chakraborti explained. Arsenic-rich groundwater is also used in irrigation and food preparation, which poses a threat to public health, the scientist noted. In West Bengal, SISSO has set up three drinking water projects to provide safe drinking water. While the project at Madhusudankati uses pond water, the other two, located in other districts of the state, use water from the Ganges River. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of SISSO, said the project’s success has encouraged him to try to bring safe water to wider areas of the arsenic-risk zone.


Rice is planted in a groundwater-irrigated field around Gaighata village. Rice grown in the arsenic belt is usually highly contaminated with arsenic, scientists have found [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/Al Jazeera]


“Among our three projects in Bengal, the Madhusudankati project is unique because, in a first among all water projects in arsenic-risk zone of West Bengal, it uses pond water. We have followed the advice of some experts like Dipankar Chakraborti, refrained from drawing groundwater, and have built a successful drinking water project using pond water,” said Pathak. “We are planning to come up with some more such pond water-based water projects across this state, aiming to bring relief to many more arsenic-affected villages in West Bengal.”

The Times of India, Kolkata Ray of hope in battle against arsenic

28 June, 2016 / By Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay

Pond-Based Filtered Water Project Shows Way Open-pond arsenic-free filtered water project at Madhusudankati in North 24-Parganas' Gaighata block, 70 km north-east of Kolkata, is giving a ray of hope to nearly 30 million arsenic-hit people living in eight districts of Bengal. Sulabh, which spearheaded the nation's first community-based hygiene movement, has not only set up the plant, but has also found a way out sustaining the water project through a unique rural entrepreneurship. Sulabh International Social Service Organization (SISSO) has developed the pondbased arsenic-free water supply system which can be a model for entire Bengal. This comes at a time when deep tube wells with arsenic filters failed to resolve the issue. Quite a sizeable population in Bengal -16 million in rural and 12 million in urban areas -in eight districts are hit by arsenic menace. Arsenic contamination leads to cancer of skin, lungs, gall bladder and other internal organs, and also dise ases like hyperpigmentation and keratosis. Provision of safe drinking water and medical relief along with long-term change in agricultural and irrigation practices are needed to tackle the menace After Madhusudankati, the same model is being repli cated at Mayapur in Nadia and parts of Midnapore and Musrhidabad. SISSO founder Bindeshwar Pathak, the father of India's biggest hygiene movement, said, “I am inspired by the success of Madhusudankati water project and will replicate the model across the country's arseniczones. Now, there is a strong demand for such projects from many states.“ Pathak is revered as `god-sent' to hundreds of Gaighata residents. Swapan Das of Jayanti village in Gaighata cannot even react on his own plight. Even a minor bout of anger can lead to heart attack. The `arsenic' he has consumed has incapacitated him for over a year, forcing his two sons -aged 12 and 13 -to hard manual labour -loha bhangar kaaj. But he hopes that his progeny will not have to drink the poison any more. Professor K J Nath, who is the vice-chancellor of Sulabh International Institute of Environmental Sanitation and Public Health and chairman of the arsenic task force of West Bengal government, said, “Madhusudankati is an eye-opener. This model ensures supply of fully treated and safe water as per WHO standard.“

In Teghoria village, arsenic-contaminated groundwater has killed scores of people in past years. But locals said that they did not know if the water of the tube well was being tested by the authorities regularly [Shaikh Azizur Rahman/ Al Jazeera]

Nineteen deaths have been reported in the recent times from the villages of Jayanti and Tegharia. “We are drinking the poison helplessly ,“ said Putiram Das, another villager. Water gives life, but here it snatches it as well. Almost the entire Gaighata block is affected. Shampa Das' two-storey house at Tegharia is the tallest structure in the village dotted with hutments. But she is scared. “I insisted that we must move out from here. But we have a business here. Even the `dub' (green coconut) water is not safe. I got it tested and the arsenic level is much greater than the tolerable limit,“ she said. “The vegetables we grow in the field also have high arsenic content,“ said Prabhat Malakar. The local cooperative, entrusted with daily operation and maintenance of the project, sells potable water 50 paise per litre and distributes a barrel with 20 litres free of cost to each BPL family every alternative day.

Source: 98

Source: 99

BINDESHWAR PATHAK Amongst Top 50 Icons Recognised in

the global diversity list SUPPORTED BY

Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder, Sulabh International (India)

"Humanist, social reformer and diversity champion. Pathak works as an advocate for the so-called ‘untouchable’ caste, so they may work, live and pray as a fully integrated part of Indian life. His work in the improvement of sanitation and production of bio-gas is changing health and wealth outcomes for the poorest people and is cited as one of the Globally Best Practice by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements." – THE ECONOMIST

Top 50 diversity figures in public life This category recognises the achievements of individuals who have used their position in public life, for example as a campaigner, politician or journalist to make an impact in diversity.

Ranked by The Economist amongst the World's Top 50 diversity figures in public life along with US President Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie and Bill Gates (November 2015)



Life changing incident Arrah, Bihar

Dr. Pathak taking out human excreta from the bucket toilet in Arrah town to experience first hand the plight of manual scavengers.

Dr. Pathak along with the manual scavengers disposing the human excreta which they carried on their heads.

Many years ago, Dr. Pathak was informed that in Arrah, a well-known town in the state of Bihar, “many untouchables are still removing human excreta and cleaning toilets manually.� Losing no time, he flew from Delhi to meet the scavenging untouchables. He stayed with them in Arrah for two days. In the morning, when the untouchables were going to clean the toilets, Dr. Pathak, with a cudgel in hand, was also ready to go with them. Taken aback, 102


they tried to dissuade him. But Dr. Pathak insisted on going with them. Despite their protestations, he also cleaned and removed human excreta from the pit toilets, put them in a ramshackle tin as the untouchables did, carried it on his head and set on foot towards a corner area of the town for disposal of the excreta.

Dr. Pathak along with the manual scavengers carrying human excreta on their heads for disposal after manually removing the same from the bucket toilets.

This incident had an electrifying impact on the town. When asked about the experience, Dr. Pathak said, “Yes, the stench was overpowering and I felt nauseous, but my commitment overshadowed the physical discomfort.” Saying this, he was overwhelmed and there were tears in his eyes. Struggling to control his emotions, he added, “While I was removing the excreta I was overwhelmed by the plight of the untouchables who do this nauseating work day after day without flinching, without hesitation, just to earn a pittance. It is a shame on us and on society!” This incident strengthened his determination to continue his struggle to ensure that the scavenging untouchables are liberated and rehabilitated to earn a decent living, as Mahatma Gandhi wanted.

Dr. Pathak taking out human excreta from the bucket toilet in Arrah town to experience first hand the plight of manual scavengers.



His Holiness Pope John Paul-II gave audience to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak before awarding him with International Saint Francis Prize.

In 1991, Dr. Pathak was awarded Padma Bhushan by the President of India, Mr. R. Venkataraman, for his distinguished social service.

Hon’ble Mrs. Anna K. Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat presenting the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour 2003 Award to Dr. Pathak.

AWARDS AND conferred on

honours dr. pathak

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak receiving the international Saint Francis Prize for the Environment “Canticle of All Creatures” in 1992.

Vice President of the French Senate Ms Chantal Jourdan decorated Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak with the Legend of Planet honour in an exceptional private reception hosted by the President of France.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak receiving the '2016 Humanitarian Award' by New York Global Leades Dialogue on April 12, 2016

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak receiving the UNEP Global 500 Scroll of Honour from Hon’ble Mr. Fares Bouez, Lebanon’s Minister of Environment. Executive Director of UNEP Hon’ble Mr. Kluas Topfer (on the right) was also present on the occasion.

The Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment

Dr. Pathak receiving the "WHO Public Health Champion" Award by WHO at New Delhi


Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak received the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize on August 20 from the Hands of H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.

CNN-News18 Indian of the Year, 2015 – Outstanding Achievement’ award by CNN-News18 at New Delhi


Dr. Pathak has conferred upon many awards but some of the awards are listed below:1984


K.P. Goenka Memorial Award



Padma Bhushan


: The International Saint Francis Prize for the Environment

Dr. Pathak on being bestowed with the "2016 Humanitarian Award" by the New York Global Leaders Dialogue

“Canticle of All Creatures” at Assisi, Italy 1996


Global Urban Best Practice by United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) at Istanbul



Dubai International Award for ‘Best Practices for Improving the Living Environment’ by UNCHS at Dubai



Scroll of Honour by UN-Habitat at Rio-de-Janeiro (Brazil)



Global 500 Roll of Honour Award by UNEP at Beirut (Lebanon)


: Hall of Fame Award by World Toilet Organisation at World Toilet Summit, Macau, China

2008 National Energy Globe Award, by Energy Globe at Brussels, Belgium 2009


2009 Stockholm Water Prize, Sweden



Inter-governmental Renewable Energy Organisation Award (IREO), USA at New York, USA



LEGENDE DE LA PLANETE Congres Fondateur Jeux Ecologiques at UNESCO, Paris



WHO Public Health Champion Award by WHO at New Delhi



2016 Humanitarian Award by New York Global Leaders Dialogue at New York



‘CNN-News18 Indian of the Year, 2015 – Outstanding Achievement’ award by CNN-News18 at New Delhi



he New York Global Leaders Dialogue conferred the 2016 Global Humanitarian Award upon Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak in recognition of “dedicating his life to the upliftment of the downtrodden, his compassion, social activism and inspiring philanthropy.” The Chairman of the organization, Mr. Phil Scanlan, applauded Dr. Pathak for his numerous humanitarian achievements that brought joy and hope in billions of lives worldwide.








“.....I, Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the city of New York, do hereby proclaim Thursday, April 14, 2016, the city of New York as: Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak Day...” 110


World's Largest Toilet COMPLEX

for the Ashadhi Ekadashi Yatra every year. During this and other yatras (such as Ashadhi Yatra, Kartiki Yatra, Chaiti Yatra, Maghi Yatra)and two Aartis in a month nearly one crore pilgrims visit the holy shrine at the Vitthal temple every year. But this pilgrimage town is in a state of neglect. During the Ashadhi Ekadashi, due to the overflowing crowds and lack of adequate toilets and other amenities for pilgrims, Pandharpur gets desecrated and is converted into a pathetic and unhygienic town. Especially the lack of basic toilet facilities has become the bane of Pandharpur. The good news is that the Maharashra Government and Sulabh International have entered into an agreement to ensure cleanliness in the holy town of Pandharpur. In the wake of the call of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to put an end to the ugly practice of open defecation, Sulabh is constructing in Pandharpur the world’s biggest toilet complex in cooperation with the Government of Maharashtra. The Government of Maharashtra (GOM) took cognizance of the filthy condition at Pandharpur and initiated the Pilgrimage Development Plan for which Sulabh International proposed phase-wise implementation of a necessary toilet facility, which was approved by the executing body of GOM. Sulabh International has completed the execution of the phase I (434 seats) before Ashadhi Yatra 2015 with the facility being used by over two lakh pilgrims. Phase II (983 seats) was made operational before Ashadhi Yatra 2016 which was used by over 4.5 lakh pilgrims. The ongoing phase III (1,441 seats) will be made operational before Ashadhi Yatra 2017. It is estimated that more than 6.5 lakh pilgrims will be able to use the said toilet facility every year thereafter. Along with the basic toilet and bathroom facilities other amenities like locker rooms, changing rooms and medical aid have been provided to the pilgrims. In brief, Sulabh has so far constructed eight toilet complexes consisting of 1,417 toilet units at Pandharpur. About 1.5 lakh people use the toilets everyday. Altogether 23 good-quality toilet complexes consisting of 2,858 toilet units will be constructed with provisions for lavatories, bath cubicles and urinals. There will be special toilets for physically challenged people, besides 397 toilets for VIPs. Almost four lakh devotees will be able to use these toilets on the occasion of special yatras. Moreover, hundreds of pilgrims can take bath together at this complex, along with availing as mentioned the facilities for lockers, dressing rooms, and medical treatment. Sulabh, thus, is endeavouring to create a clean and hygienic atmosphere in Pandharpur. Sulabh is striving to fulfill the dream of the Hon’ble Prime Minister by making the places around the holy shrines clean and open-defecation-free.

Pandharpur, Maharashtra

Pilgrimage town Pandharpur on the way to have the world’s largest toilet complex


nhygienic conditions due to lack of basic toilet facilities are more appalling and revolting in pilgrimage centres in India than at other places for the simple reason that these centres are sacred places for the pilgrims. For this reason, Sulabh International chose to build adequate and good-quality toilets at Pandharpur, one of India’s most popular pilgrimage sites, which is located in Sholapur district of Maharashtra. This effort, it may be added, is in continuation of Sulabh’s long standing commitment of building toilets at important religious places across the country and at other significant public places. Vithoba or Vitthal, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, is the reigning deity of Pandharpur, and the deity’s temple is located on the banks of the river Bhima, which is often called Chandrabhag. The temple attracts more than 12 lakh pilgrims


Sulabh International Social Service Organisation In General Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council Sulabh Bhawan, Palam Dabri Road, New Delhi - 110 045 Tel.: (+91-11) 25031518, 25031519, Fax: (+91-11) 25034014, 25055952 Email: / Website: / #9311156526

Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader and Dr. Pathak in an animated conversation during his visit to the Sulabh Campus on April 04, 2016

Hon'ble Shri P. Chidambaram  
Hon'ble Shri P. Chidambaram  

Former Union Finance Minister and Senior Congress Leader at the Sulabh Campus on April 04, 2016