Rashtra nirman ke yogdaan: Sulabh ki pehel’ (‘A contribution to nation-building: An initiative by Sulabh’) was a one-day joint session on the critical issue of sanitation, health and social uplift of ‘human scavengers, organised by the Haryana Institute of Public Administration, Gururgram, and the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Haryana branch
“When I went to America in the recent past, the people there said that they should also have ‘Sulabh magic toilets’ there. When I asked, “America is a prosperous nation and everything is good here, then why is there a need for Sulabh magic toilets?” To that they said there is a sewer line facility in American cities, but the villages have septic tank toilets, which is why the Sulabh technique of converting human-waste into manure will be beneficial there and a safe disposal of stool will be done. Hence there is a universal need for Sulabh magic toilets today. The technology of our Sulabh magic toilets is very effective in making the country clean and beautiful.” These were the words of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation founder Padmabhushan Dr Bindeshwar Pathak while speaking as a key-note speaker on the topic ‘Rashtra Nirman ke yogdaan: Sulabh ki pehel’ (‘A contribution to nation-building: An initiative by Sulabh’) in a one-day joint session organised by the Haryana Institute of Public Administration, Gururgram, and the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Haryana branch, on ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan ke antargat Swachh Gurugram, Swachh Haryana’ (‘Clean Gurugram, Clean Haryana’ under ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’) on February 2, 2018.
In his address, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak presented the historical background of the landscape of cleanliness in the country and the special class of people involved in that process. In his initial statement, referring to Mr. G Prasanna Kumar, he said that some 42-43 years ago, Sulabh International initiated the work of toilet-construction in Bhiwani city of Haryana, after having done the same in Bihar, and it was then when Mr. Kumar was the Bhiwani Municipal Corporation officer. He added that with the cooperation of Mr. Kumar and his team and due to society-friendly technology, they are today working in many parts of the country and the world. Dr. Pathak said that Haryana has always been looking forward to its development and that is why this state has done so much. He said that the politicians and officials have been contributing to the same.
While mentioning the tradition of open defecation in the country, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak said it is mentioned in our ‘Devi Purana’ that one should defecate as far from their house that an arrow when pulled and thrown from the house, travels. Before defecating, first a pit should be dug, thatch should be thrown in, and then similarly after defecating, it should be covered first by throwing in thatch and then covering it with clay. He said that this is why the practice of open defecation still prevails in our country. Referring to religious texts, he said that the people cleaning the toilets have been referred as ‘Chandal’ and the term is defined in the 30th division of ‘Yajur Veda’. In the ‘Thori Gatha’ of Pali-literature, Lord Buddha and his disciple Anand’s conversation has a mention of ‘Chandal’. In Pali, it is called ‘Paulkasya’. The context is that one day Lord Buddha was going along with his disciple Anand when on the way a person hid on seeing them and sat down. On this, Buddha asked Anand that why did this person hid on seeing them? Then Anand told him that this person is a human-waste cleaner and therefore, considering himself an untouchable, he hid away from them. Then Lord Buddha called him, talked to him and gave him his blessing. He told that the ‘Chandal’ community originates from Brahmin caste.
Dr. Pathak said when the Muslim rulers captured our country and started living here, their women used to live behind curtains and they did not go out for defecation. That is why there were constructions of ‘Baltinuma’ toilets in their homes and Hindu prisoners were kept for their cleanliness, mostly from Rajput castes. He mentioned Amritlal Nagar’s novel ‘Nachyau Bahut Gopal’ saying that this novel revolves around a scavenger woman and it tells that 29 sub-castes of Rajputs were made scavengers by the Muslims, whose caste titles remain the same today. Due to the manual scavenging practice, these people were placed in the category of untouchables. This malpractice of ‘Baltinuma’ toilets was later on adopted by Hindu families too and scavengers were appointed for their cleaning up.
On the arrival of British, though huge houses were constructed, but they too had no toilet arrangements. For the first time, arrangements for sewer lines were made in Calcutta in 1870, but that too partially. Today there are 7,935 cities in India, of which mere 732 cities have sewer lines. The sewer system could neither get rid of the practice of manual scavenging, nor the practice of open-defecation. This system is very expensive and it is not possible to put it all the way. That’s why there is a lack of hygiene in Africa, Latin America and other countries. Second is the arrangement of septic tank.
He said that the major reason behind this issue is that the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras and people from various sub-castes of Shudras, will not clean the waste. Only the Shudras from Valmiki caste will clean it, which means 99.9 per cent of people produce the waste while only 0.01 per cent are cleaning it. The defecators have distanced themselves from the cleanliness process. It was Gandhiji who first focussed his attention on this problem. He got trench latrines constructed and talked about soiling human waste. Gandhiji said that the scavengers should get equal rights in society. For the social upliftment of the scavengers, he wanted that the nation’s President should be someone who comes from this caste. Dr. Pathak said, “I am working to fulfill Gandhiji’s dreams. I cannot make anyone president of the country, but I have made Mrs. Usha Chaumar, once a scavenger woman from Alwar, the President of Sulabh International.” He said that she is no more a scavenger, but a Brahmin instead. “I have changed her caste and converted her into a Brahmin. When there is a system of religion conversion in the society, then there should also be a system of caste conversion. When people questioned me why I made them Brahmins then I told them that keep any caste as it suits you, it will not bend-down your head. Whichever caste you find not pulling you down, accept that, and this will put an end to untouchability.”
In this mien, he also briefly talked about how the manual scavenger women of Alwar and Tonk were pulled out of that disgusting work by Sulabh and then educated, taught to cook, permitted entry to villages, performing Ganga-bath, Kumbh bath and enter mainstream society. He also mentioned the works done by Sulabh for the welfare of widows in Vrindavan, Varanasi and Uttarakhand and toilets being constructed in private houses in different parts of the country.
Dr. Pathak said that in order to eliminate the malpractice of manual-scavenging, and to eradicate the concept of untouchability, he invented two-pit Sulabh magic toilet technology. In it, a pit is used at a time and the is on standby. When the first pit is filled, then the second is used and during that period of around 1.5-2 years, the human-waste in the first pot turns into compost. That’s why no scavenger is needed to clean it. In this way, he gave the technique of Sulabh magic toilets as a replacement to the ‘Baltinuma’ toilets, which could solve this major problem of the society. He said that Sulabh has constructed 15 lakh toilets, across the country, which are still running properly today. He said that they work along with government officials. The follow-up on toilets is necessary. The government should provide loans from banks to build toilets, only then the desired target can be achieved.
The Sulabh International founder said that after Gandhi if anyone has talked the most about cleanliness and toilets, then that would be Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Today even the children are focusing on cleanliness. Dr. Pathak said that one lakh toilets can now be made any instant, in which six lakh people will be employed, and in its construction process masons and laborers will also find work. He said that we have to eliminate the notion that the bigger the man, the lesser the work. Now everyone has to work. Only when citizens, institutions and government work together, then only a total access to cleanliness is possible.
In his welcome speech, Mr. G. Prasanna Kumar, Director General of Haryana Public Administration Institute, said that to make ‘Clean Gurugram’, ‘Clean Haryana’ and ‘Clean India’, we have to begin the process of sanitation from our homes. He said that h has known Sulabh and Dr. Pathak for the last 42 years, when he had constructed toilets in Bhiwani. He requested the people to go to the campus of Sulabh in Delhi, where they can see how much work is being done for the sanitation campaign.
Underlining the change in her life, the President of Sulabh International, and former rehabilitated scavenger, Mrs. Usha Chaumar said that she has lived two lives in one life. She said that she had been living a life of hell earlier, but then got included in the mainstream of the society when Sulabh took her under its wings and gave her the tag of a Brahmin. She said that with this she not only got rid of her dirty profession but also out of ‘ghunghat’. While paying her gratitude to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak for changing her life like this, she said that she has not seen Gandhiji but for her Dr. Pathak is Gandhi and God.
She said that Alwar has undergone a vast change today. The Brahmins who never used to touch them before, now invite them to weddings in their homes, sit together, feed them and offer gifts. Regarding the cleanliness of the country, Mrs Chumad said that when she goes to other countries, the cleanliness there gives her a peace of mind and sher appealed for the same in India.
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