Sulabh has been working tirelessly for the past 48-years as the torchbearer of cleanliness. The leaders of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement along with thousands of volunteers are working towards the same goal with the same destination. This intention was re-vocalised once again on Sulabh’s 48th Foundation Day celebrations
Sulabh International celebrated its 48th Foundation Day. This journey of one of the world’s largest non-governmental organisations is unique in itself. Sulabh has been working tirelessly for cleanliness, service, and social reform without any donations or dividends for 48 years. Sulabh has changed the philosophy of cleanliness by working to support the downtrodden and scavengers in the country. Sulabh has followed its philosophy of service throughout the decades.
Service is the philosophy
Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak said that Sulabh’s philosophy is to serve others. The goal to realise Mahatma Gandhi’s dream is what led to the birth of Sulabh. Gandhi’s dream was to end the malpractice of manual scavenging and bring the scavengers to the mainstream of society. Sulabh has been working in this direction since its inception. Sulabh has made this the cause of the entire nation.
Changed millions of lives
Today, more than 60,000 volunteers are connected to Sulabh International. In Sulabh’s 48-year-long journey, more than 15 lakh household and 8,500 public toilets have been built. More than 6 crore public toilets have been made according to Sulabh’s toilet designs. Today, more than 20 million people are using Sulabh toilets daily. More than 10,000 scavengers have been rehabilitated. While Sulabh’s founder Dr Bindeshwar Pathak was born to a very conservative Brahmin family, with the establishment of Sulabh, he illuminated the darkness of countless lives. He researched and developed the two-pit-pour flush toilet in 1968. This was the catalyst that changed both the state and direction of the toilets in India. This new kind of toilet was very useful and cheap to construct.
Since the establishment of Sulabh in 1970 and the construction of public toilets in urban areas in 1974, the two-pit model gained popularity. This model of toilets was first seen in Bihar and soon gained popularity across India. These Sulabh toilets were based on pay-and-use system and proved to be a boon for the people. These toilets have been the foundation of the improvement in sanitation in India since its inception.
A Culture of Hygiene
Dr Pathak says that the biggest achievement in our 48-year journey is that we have successfully developed a culture of cleanliness. The tree that was planted 48 years ago, has now blossomed and bears flowers and fruits. Sulabh’s journey has touched countless lives. In this 48-year long journey, Sulabh has given so much to society.
Sulabh’s work opportunities
The biggest dilemma faced by scavengers was that if they left the work of manual scavenging, they wouldn’t have any other way of earning a living. Since its inception, Sulabh started working towards helping those facing this dilemma. Sulabh gave scavengers new ways of earning their livelihood. Sulabh has provided vocational training to rehabilitated scavengers and has helped them gain employment in various fields.
Sulabh’s two-pit toilet
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, underlining the 48- year journey of Sulabh, says that if Sulabh’s two-pit technology didn’t exist, the country wouldn’t have met the standards of cleanliness and sanitation access it has been able to achieve in the past decades. Today, the country is close to achieving the dream of ending open defecation altogether, and Sulabh’s twin-pit model has played a crucial role in making that a reality.
Reform along with toilets
Dr Pathak believes that Sulabh has become a vehicle of social reform. He said that the contribution of Sulabh isn’t limited to the toilets. Sulabh has made positive changes by bringing the oppressed scavengers into the mainstream of society along with increasing access to proper sanitation. Simultaneously, it has also played an important part in saving the environment, the rights of the widows and the downtrodden. He said that every year he plays Holi with the widowed mothers of Vrindavan. Dr Pathak said that these are also the different ways in which Sulabh has contributed to the development of the country.
From Toilets To School
Chairman of Sulabh, S P Singh, speaking about Sulabh’s journey said “We have made every possible effort to change the society. When people doubted that toilets wouldn’t change the society, we opened a school, trained people, and brought them into the mainstream.” Sulabh’s Executive Chairman S Chatterjee speaking on the occasion said that when Dr Pathak developed the two-pit toilet model, scientists didn’t believe that it could end a practice that has been going on for thousands of years. But Dr Pathak proved them wrong by helping eliminate manual scavenging in many parts of the country via Sulabh toilets. Sulabh’s famed two-pit toilet is now being implemented in the entire world. Even the New York city celebrates April 14th as Dr Bindeshwar Pathak Day annually.
The pains of scavenging
Hailing from Alwar in Rajasthan, Sulabh society’s president, Usha Chaumar shared her story and the pains experienced by manual scavenging. She said, “When I did carry nightsoil, I had never fathomed that anyone would ever listen to me.”
Usha said that she had lived two lives in this life -- one as a scavenger, which is very dirty and without honour and second -- after being rehabilitated, a life that has honour and happiness.
Pooja Changra, who came from the same tonk of Rajasthan, told that Sulabh gave her a new life by making her a part of the Sulabh family. She received training via Sulabh’s ‘Nai Disha’ programme and now earns her own livelihood and lives with dignity.
Sulabh has also emphasized the role of better education in changing the society. Sulabh Public School is a big step in this direction. Most of the children attending this school are from the backward classes of the society. These students not only receive a basic education but also receive vocational training. On the 48th Founder’s day celebration, the students of Sulabh Public School presented a variety of cultural programmes. From ‘Ganesh Vandana’ to ‘Sulabh ko Salaam’, they kept the attendees entertained throughout.
On the 48th Foundation Day celebrations, the entire Sulabh gram was decorated. Sulabh’s founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak presented flowers at the statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar in the Sulabh gram. Over the years, Dr Pathak has been campaigning to enable the suffering widows to lead a normal and dignified life. Through his multiple initiatives for ameliorating these women, he has brought a tangible difference in their lives, and has thus succeeded in his mission to give them a new lease of life. Sulabh has been providing a monthly allowance of Rs 2000/- a month for basic necessities and teaching skills. The festival of Holi has always been a boisterous Hindu festival. Colours play a central role in the celebrations, so much so that it is commonly known as the festival of colours. But for these women it is the definition of freedom, happiness, upliftment and acceptance in the society. It is the true achievement of good over the evil.
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