Fusion of academics and foot soliders at the triennial seminar from June 25-27, 2018 in Ahmedabad
While entering the premises of the Gujarat University the words “Yog Karmasu Kaushalam” are clearly visible, written in large bold text on the main entrance…which actually means, ‘Skill and action is Yoga’. A similar message was given in a three-day seminar on the campus of the university and the foundation for a better society and future with cleanliness was laid.
Students and teachers of sociology from various universities were spellbound as they listened with awe women scavengers from across the country relaying their tales of empowerment away from the humiliating job of carrying night soil on their head, minutes after Gujarat Governor OP Kohli exhorted professors of sociology to learn real lessons from “practical sociologist” and father of India’s toilet revolution Bindeshwar Pathak.
The Gujarat Governor, who inaugurated the first-ever three-day national seminar on “Sociology of Sanitation” at the Gujarat University in Ahmedabad on 25th June, advised teachers and professors to make “sociology a live shastra” and link the subject with sanitation in practice so as to pull it out from academic books to convert it into real action for social change.
Minutes after this, women from Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh who had been rehabilitated and ushered into lives of respect by Bindeshwar Pathak’s Sulabh International Social Service Organisation away from their previous jobs of carrying human excreta on their head, related their stories.
Thus, the first two days of the seminar saw sharing of real-life examples of sociology in action
by people on the ground with academics who presented scholarly papers on various aspects of sanitation and cleanliness to provide a perspective to several issues and challenges.
Discussions continued on 27th June ahead of the valedictory function where Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Founder of Sulabh International Social Services Organisation Padma Bhushan Bindeshwar Pathak were the guests of honour.
The seminar was jointly organised by the Maharaja Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavnagar University, Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Department of Sociology, Samaldas Arts College, Bhavnagar and Sulabh International Social Services Organisation, New Delhi.
“Speakers at the conference spoke about the need for fixing universities’ social responsibility just like corporate social responsibility,” the OP Kohli Governor of Gujarat said.
Kohli added that, “In the same way as education is a powerful instrument of social change, sociology should become a powerful instrument for change.” He appreciated that at least 11 universities in the country are teaching sociology of sanitation as part of their curriculum and exhorted others to adopt this as a course.
The Governor later presented Sociology of Sanitation Gold Medal to Prof Binod Kumar Choudhary, who is the Head of the Post-Graduate Department of Sociology at the LN Mithila University, Darbhanga.
Speaking at the inaugural function, Bindeshwar Pathak said he is elated that “for the first time in five decades a seminar is being organised on the theme of the sociology of sanitation” by two universities and a college teaching this as a subject.
Establishment of Sanitation Chair
On the first day of the seminar, Dr Pathak dedicated Sulabh Chair for Sociology to the Maharaja Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavnagar University and the Gujarat University with an assistance of Rs 35 lakh each. Dr Pathak hoped that by establishing the Sanitation Chair, the research of the students on ‘sociology of hygiene’ would lead to better development of society and the practical solution to the problems.
Dr Pathak is the greatest Sociologist: OP Kohli
In his inaugural address on the occasion, Om Prakash Kohli, Governor of Gujarat, said that Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is a person who believes in motivational doing, not motivational speeches. He has created a global movement by inspiring countless people and changing their lives. He said that Dr Pathak has given sanitation the form of a movement. He doesn’t just believe in using words but also practically motivates people by his actions, which is the reason the no one can understand the sociology sanitation better than him. In Dr Pathak, we have got a practical sociologist. Had he been a professor in sociology, he would have inspired the students just by his lectures but now by the amazing work he is teaching and inspiring us all.
Kohli said that cleanliness is included in the traits of our religion, the conduct of cleanliness is the true religion, but people treated the untouchables as a religion, whereas religion should be pure. He said that cleanliness can only remove untouchability. He requested the Vice Chancellors who were present in the seminar and all the Universities of Gujarat, to think how we can celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on October 2, 2019, by giving a big message to the society.
I have offered a solution: Dr Pathak
In his keynote address Dr Pathak said that while Gandhi had dreamed of clean India, PM Modi was working to fulfill it. He said, he could not make it to the academia even if he really worked hard to be a professor of sociology. Instead, he said, he was assigned to work for the downtrodden, the untouchables, and this is how began his journey with his landmark invention and development of ‘Two-pit’ toilet technology.
Dr Pathak said that the country’s sociologists had the responsibility to bring change in the society rather than be confined to the academy. Hence, the idea and discipline of Sociology of Sanitation that evolved during the course of his work on sanitation and social reforms. He stressed that teaching sociology was not enough and that it needed to be part of the academic curriculum.
Sulabh has held many a seminar and discussions over years with the different stakeholders in the country on the discipline, exhaustively. As a result, the subject is already a part of curricula of 11 universities of the country. Dr Pathak announced that Sulabh would extend financial support for two Chairs of Sociology of Sanitation in the respective universities of Gujarat.
Sulabh is widely acclaimed for its path-breaking social interventions in mainstreaming the untouchables into social acceptance and restoration of their human rights.
Dr Pathak informed the gathering that Sulabh had brought the change through absolutely non-violent means, without treading anyone’s raw corns or ruffling anyone’s feathers. “We have advocated and made possible for erstwhile untouchables choose caste of their choice just as people can choose a religion they like,’ he said. No one had thought that widows of this country could touch colours and think of leading a normal life just as a widower had a freedom to do. We have made that possible,” he added.
The women of the households that had no toilets typically must spend sleepless nights waiting for the cover of darkness when they could to go out to relieve themselves. No longer do they have to do that with toilets constructed by Sulabh now in their homes. They can sleep now in those hours peacefully.
“This is about functional sociology, and this is about our books that are ‘talking’. Our sociology talking is not just limited to good words,” said Dr Pathak equating the beneficiaries of various Sulabh sanitation programmes with the ‘talking books sociology’ some of who were present at the Seminar.
Dr Pathak should be awarded Nobel Prize: Pais
Attributing new-found awareness about sanitation in the country to four factors, former vice chancellor of the Mangalore University Richard Pais has said it began with Mahatma Gandhi, to be followed more recently by Bindeshwar Pathak, who has changed the sanitation scenario in the country.
The other two factors, according to him, are the Harappan Civilization and the cleanliness campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said, “The Harappan, Lothal and Mohenjo Daro archaeological excavations in the Indus Valley civilization period have shown that there were sewerage drainage systems, public wells and private and public baths. In those times, streets were built on a grid pattern. Asia, including Pakistan and parts of India, was prominent in hydraulic engineering and had many water supply and sanitation devices at that time.”
Thereafter, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, led a continuous campaign for sanitation, cleanliness and efficient management of all categories of waste throughout his public life. He took up the works of sanitation on priority, with a set of volunteers, tried to make one village ideally clean, swept the roads and courtyards, cleaned out wells and ponds and induced villagers towards sanitation.
Pais said, “No one else has done for sanitation in India more than Dr Pathak. In finding an alternative to manual scavenging, he invented the two-pit flush compost toilet and gave it the name ‘Sulabh Sauchalaya’, which has become the tool of social change and has vastly benefitted the society.”
“Because of these hygienic toilets, the untouchable scavengers have been relieved from the subhuman occupation of cleaning night soil, a practice nearly 5000 years old.”
“Not only that, to rehabilitate the scavengers and to bring them into the mainstream of the society, a dream of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Pathak adopted non-violence. He established a dialogue with the upper castes and asked them to sit with the manual scavengers and dine with them.”
Pais explained, “Without resorting to any negativity, he persuaded the upper caste people to have social interaction with the untouchables. He also provided education to the downtrodden, which enlightened them, removing darkness from their minds. This brought in a real change in them and they started taking interest in reading, writing and telling their own stories, singing songs and many of them have now become good poets.”
During his valedictory address, Pais also sent out some suggestions for the Sulabh International founder and also to the prime minister. He urged the organization and the Gujarat government to start a Sanitation University.
With Gujarat being dubbed as a model state, he wished that such a university should be set up in Gujarat, but if not, then he would like it to be set up in Karnataka, where he would provide the land required for it. He also requested the government and the universities to recommend the name of Dr Pathak for the prestigious Nobel Peace Award.
Dr Y Ravindranath Rao
(Academic innovation and Sulabh Sanitation)
Dr Y Ravindranath Rao in his presentation said sanitation is a universal problem and most of the medical issues can be traced back to the root cause of hygiene. Talking about the various programmes of Sulabh, he said that Sulabh was fulfilling the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and that all of Sulabh’s activities are meant to find solutions to basic problems. Sulabh’s greatest contribution has been to find an alternative to dealing with sewerage. He said that Sulabh was not confined to building toilets but it is involved in every aspect of hygiene. Sulabh is present not just in India, but also in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and many other countries. Sulabh according to Action Sociology is synonymous with change.
Dr Janak P Joshi
(Sanitation and Literature)
Research scholar Dr Janak P Joshi in his presentation “Sanitation and Literature” has traced the long history of cleanliness in Hindi literature. Focusing on history he showed that Chand Bardai’s “Prithivraj Raso” that there was a reference to cleanliness in this great literary work. Kabir too has emphasised the importance of cleanliness in his philosophy, and Tulsi Das has explained the essence of cleanliness. Sur Das has written about the philosophy of cleanliness in his works on the childhood miracles of Lord Krishna.
Joshi said that in the much-discussed literary work, ‘Andher Nagari,’ there was a lively discussion on cleanliness. There was talk about cleanliness in Jaishankar Prasad’s ‘Iravati’. The great Hindi novelist, Premchand in his works like ‘Kalam Ke Sipahi’ and ‘Godaan’ makes his characters speak about cleanliness. Hoshi said that this shows that there is a deep link between literature and cleanliness.
At the end of the first day’s programme, students of Gujarat and Bhavnagar universities presented a cultural programme, which included songs and drama.
On the second day of the seminar, all the research scholars who presented papers said in one voice that ‘Gujarat is the home of sociology’. Sociologists praised Dr Pathak and thanked him for holding a seminar on a crucial issue like ‘sociology of sanitation’. All of them said that there is need for greater research on sanitation.
Dr Pathak, A Practical Sociologist: Dr Himanshu
Dr Himanshu Pandya, addressing the Seminar said that Dr Pathak had studied, developed a remarkable understanding of the social maladies and had provided appropriate solutions.
His Excellency the Governor of Gujarat OP Kohli, in his address, said that Dr Pathak’s was not just a theoretical presentation but a hardcore practicality that he had made possible. He said, “good that Dr Pathak could not make it to academia; in him, we have got a practical sociologist which surely makes a greater sense to the society.”
He said, “we have mistaken untouchability for religion instead of cleanliness; Dr Pathak has put the distorted narrative in the right perspective.” He beseeched the universities here to celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of Gandhi in a really meaningful way.
He said that Sociologist-teachers had the responsibility to guide their students into going beyond the books. Sulabh was not just toilets but a movement of larger social reforms that sociology was a powerful instrument of social change, he said. He said all us know corporate social responsibility but there was a need to think of individual social responsibility. We called for making all-out efforts to take forward the grand agenda of Dr Pathak.
The conception of the fourth monkey is beautiful
Emissary of cleanliness and founder of Sulabh Dr Pathak praised all the papers presented at the seminar and described than as stepping-stones for a better society. Praising Professor Neha’s research paper, he said that the conception of the fourth monkey was really beautiful and that no one should do evil. He said Sulabh and he follow this fourth monkey of Mahatma Gandhi. He said compared to the past there is increased social awareness of cleanliness. He said Sulabh has set up the infrastructure for cleanliness and now it is for the government and people to follow it. People have to come forward for cleanliness.
He said it is necessary to improve the design of toilets. It ius necessary to focus on the utilitarian aspect of the toilet. He quoted Gandhi as saying that things in a house should have things which are available within a five-mile radius. He said it is necessary to understand the utility of a place and its form. He said that Sulabh is running 9000 public conveniences with the cooperation of the people and without burdening the government. He said we started our journey with Rs 500 and today more than 60,000 people work for it.
Dr Pathak has asked young social scientists through better research and development to bring about social change and at the same time to create employment for people. He said, “You can change world honestly.” He said Sulabh is making clean water available at the price of 50 paise per litre. He said we have made the biggest public toilet in Maharashtra and it is used by more than four lakh people everyday
The second session of the Seminar had the graphic presentations from the ‘talking books’ of Dr Pathak, who was once the acutely deprived and discriminated section of the society and rose to its respectable echelons. Usha Chaumar, now Usha ‘Sharma’, narrated her story of an ordeal as a manual scavenger of excrement to her transformation into an entrepreneur leading a life of dignity her forefathers never knew.
Professor Nil Rattan moderating the session said how she and others like her were Dr Pathak’s ‘talking books’ of sociology. And for that matter ‘he was like a mobile library of such books.”
Another ex-scavenger-untouchable related her story saying how terrible did she feel when she was made to sit away from other children in her school at lunch hour before Sulabh vocational training centre happened where she took up tailoring and saw her life transform.
Preet Kaur, Ludhiana
She said, her family was too poor to afford even a toilet without which she had to drop out of her school in her childhood. Toilet has given her family a new lease of life which is hugely better for her children which was unthinkable. “I cannot thank enough Dr Pathak; my children now go to school and especially girls are much better off with toilet at or home,” she said.
Rukhaiyya Bano, Jammu
She recited couplets in the honour of Dr Pathak and 400 others like her Sulabh training centres could empower them to earn a living for themselves, besides the toilets that changed their life like never before. Abdul Lateef was effusively all praises for Sulabh chief saying after Gandhi God had sent Dr Pathak to take care of the marginalised of the society.
The Seminar’s heady day-one business was concluded by light, cultural presentation of a skit and some lilting music rendered by artists to the packed auditorium.
Laxmi Sharma, Alwar
Laxmi Sharma, who came from Alwar in Rajasthan, had done inhuman work of carrying night soil before 2003. She told how a tailor refused to take her measurements when she went to get her clothes stitched and took the measurement from a distance after soaking the cloth in water. But in 2003, the people of Sulabh reached Alwar and she got relief from this disgusting work. Today, she holds a pen in place of night soil and writes a poem. She also recited her poem ‘patan se utthaan tak’
Shakuntala, former Sarpanch of Marora village in Haryana’s Mewat district, said that in Dr Pathak she sees God because he has changed the lives of the people of her village like a messiah. With the adoption of the village of Marora, Dr Pathak made hundreds of toilets and made people self-reliant.
Gayatri Sharma, Alwar
On this occasion, high-caste people along with former scavengers were also present. One of them, Gayatri Sharma, said that she certainly belongs to the upper caste, but she is completely opposed to discrimination. She said by connecting with Dr Pathak her life too got changed. Like the great South African leader Nelson Mandela, Dr Pathak has made tireless efforts to change the country and is fulfilling the dreams of Gandhiji. She also urged everyone to stop the moral decline of society.
Pradeep Arya, Alwar
Pradeep Arya, who came from Alwar in Rajasthan, said that the practice of manual scavenging is playing a major reason behind the many failures of India. But Dr Pathak’s work saved India. He said that by learning from Dr Pathak, he organised a banquet for the people who were considered untouchable and ate food together, leaving behind untouchability. He said that the Human Resources Ministry should give Dr Pathak a degree for his commendable work.
Chhavi Sharma, Guwahati
Chhavi Sharma of Guwahati, who is living in the Sulabh-assisted widow’s ashram in Vrindavan, said that because of Dr Pathak the life of widows is now full of colours. We get free medicines and food. Money is provided as well. If there is a God in reality, then I see him in Dr Pathak, she said.
End of three-day seminar
Many sociologists of the country were present at the closing ceremony of the three-day seminar. Among them were Dr MH Makwana, Harish Doshi, Dr Nilesh Barot, Dr Radhey Shyam Tripathi, Dr Richard Pias. Sociologists lauded all the research papers presented on two days in the seminar and hoped that these research papers would get great success in the area of hygiene. The work being done by Sulabh in the area of hygiene for behavioural sociology is also considered the foundation of a better future. Dr Pathak’s contribution in Action Sociology was greatly appreciated and he was called the father of sociology of hygiene.
‘Suvidha’ Oxy-Biodegradable Sanitary napkins
At the closing ceremony, in a presentation it was shown that Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Pariyojana includes cheap sanitary napkin pads for women. These oxy-biodegradable sanitary napkins by the name of ‘Suvidha’ are available at 3200 Jan Aushadhi Kendras across the country for Rs 2.50 per pad. It was revealed that there is a perception that plastic does not biodegrade, but it can be eliminated with oxy-biodegradable technology. Hence the Suvidha napkin pad is much better. 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste is collected every year, which is a major problem, but this problem can be solved by oxy-biodegradable technology.
New generation is ‘Fortunate’: Dr Doshi
The famous sociologist Dr Harish Doshi said that sociology of cleanliness is not limited to students only. This is a subject that should reach every person. A self-motivated movement must be started for cleanliness. The new generation is very fortunate that they will be able to read about the Sulabh movement. It has been an organised movement that has prepared a world of change. He suggested that ‘Indian Constitution and Cleanliness’ should be included in ‘Sociology of Hygiene’. He congratulated Dr Pathak and Sulabh for this seminar and its idea.
Seminar extremely successful: Dr Pathak
Dr Pathak thanked everyone who came from across the country. He said so many research papers show that the seminar has been very successful. The thought with which I came here was fulfilled, but still there is a long way to go. He said that the secret of Sulabh is hidden in his technique and economic model. We do not take any grants, but serve people.
On this occasion, Shailesh Jala, Vice Chancellor of Bhavnagar University, said that the three-day programme has been very successful and the purpose of the seminar was fulfilled. More than 50 valuable research papers have been presented at the seminar. Gujarat University Vice-Chancellor, Himanshu Pandya said that the research papers presented in this seminar will be published in the Journal of Gujarat University.
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