Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak: India’s Golden Signature
| Onkareshwar Pandey, Editor in Chief, IOP - 02 Apr 2019

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak: India’s Living Legend and Golden Signature

Dr. Pathak deserves Noble Prize and Bharat Ratna for his great contributions

  • The US pays respect to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a living legend, by observing 'Bindeshwar Pathak Day' every year.
  • Dr. Pathak thinks beyond sanitation for country and society

 

By Onkareshwar Pandey (Editor in Chief, Indian Observer Post)

New Delhi, April 02, 2019

Our mainstream media today has enough time to celebrate either the Birth Days of Bollywood celebrities or the politicians in power. But they have no time, and none of them applies their minds to celebrate the birthdays of the real heroes of our society and country.  

However, today, the Indian Observer Post wishes to celebrate the Birthday of a very special personality, who is popularly called ‘Uttarardh Gandhi’ in this country.

I am talking about none other than Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, who is a simple living man in plain clothes with great vision, who has made great contribution to the society, country, and the world.

Born in Rampur, Bihar on April 2, 1943, Dr. Pathak is such a great personality, whose name is celebrated in America and observed as 'Bindeshwar Pathak Diwas'.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a living legend, whose name will be written with golden signatures in India’s history of social reforms.

A great humanist and social reformer of contemporary India, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is the compassionate face of a paternal redeemer to the weaker sections of society.

With a great vision of a philosopher and the undying zeal of a missionary, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is an icon of sanitation and social reform who has made a difference in the lives of millions of people.

No doubt, Dr. Pathak will be remembered in India’s history for his innovative strides in the field of sanitation as well as social reform.

Dr. Pathak has created a new culture which embraces the poor and extols the dignity of labour.

Today’s media has no time to tell the fact, that how Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak made sincere and tireless efforts and ultimately turned the pages of history where the erstwhile untouchables have been allowed by the society to intermingle with them, to live on par with them, dine with them and offer prayers in the temples.

His boundless love for the downtrodden finds expression in myriad and tangible ways. No wonder those who know him intimately 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 for open defecation, even along the roads and railway tracks as described graphically by Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul in his book 'An Area of Darkness'.

It is a far grimmer scenario when womenfolk have to go out for defecation in the open exposing human dignity and risking criminal assaults. He has identified himself with the problems of the untouchables. Dr. Pathak's multi-pronged efforts in bringing scavengers, worst victims of institutionalized caste discrimination and engaged in sub-human occupation, in the mainstream of national life, have taken the shape of a movement for social justice.

Narendra Modi may be credited as the first Prime Minister of India to launch a nationwide campaign to make India cleaner, however, Dr. Pathak was the first Indian who developed and implemented on pan-India scale a low-cost and appropriate toilet technology (popularly known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya movement or System) recommended as a Global Best Practice.

An internationally acclaimed expert on sanitation, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is also credited of sensitizing the nation towards sanitation. 

Apart from low-cost sanitation, his contributions are widely known in the areas of bio-energy and bio-fertiliser, liquid and solid waste management, poverty alleviation and integrated rehabilitation programme for the liberated scavengers.

In fact, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a Renaissance Man and combines in himself 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 expertise to enrich and empower the depressed classes, improve community health, hygiene and environment.

Thus, he is truly fulfilling the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar.

A real Indian sociologist, Bindeshwar Pathak is the founder of Sulabh International, an India-based social service organization which works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education.

Modi government might have recognized his efforts and role after three years in power and made him the Brand Ambassador for Swachh Rail Mission of Indian Railways; however, his work is considered pioneering in social reform, especially in the field of sanitation and hygiene.

The fact is after Gandhi Dr. Pathak is the man, more than any other in India, who has championed sanitation and upliftment of the untouchables as a mission of his life.

For the last four decades, he has been working relentlessly to keep the ecosystem clean and bring the marginalised sections of the society in the mainstream. He gave a new dimension to the Gandhian movement and broad-based his principled fight against all kinds of discrimination.

The New York Times, in the article 'Untouchables gain the help of a Brahmin', hailed him as a "full-time crusader against the humiliations of untouchability".

His contribution in abolishing the inhuman practice of scavenging is seminal and unparalleled in the sense that he not only studied the social evil but provided its categorical solution through a low-cost toilet-technology and developed a self-sustaining sanitation system across the country.

In the process of providing alternative to scavenging and rehabilitation and social upgradation of scavengers, Dr. Pathak created a pan-Indian network with 50,000 volunteers and gave birth to what is popularly known as Sulabh Sanitation Movement. "No body should go outside for defecation and every house in India should have a toilet" has become the passionate obsession of Dr. Pathak.

It is Dr. Pathak's epic struggle, which has helped the world to understand that the technology of Sulabh Shauchalaya (two-pit pourflush toilet) that he modified and developed and implemented on large-scale could be a safe and hygienic human waste disposal system for about three billion population living on the earth planet.

Expensive systems like sewerage and septic tanks are not cost-effective and affordable for teeming millions in the Third World.

Dr. Pathak came up with the Sulabh technology in 1970 and it was first greeted with scepticism and derision, but in 1996 it was declared a global 'Urban Best Practice' at the Habitat-II conference held at Istanbul and the Economic and Social Council of United Nations has granted Special Consultative Status to Sulabh in recognition of its outstanding service. "You are helping the poor", lauded Pope John Paul II while honouring Dr. Pathak with International St. Francis Prize for the Environment, in 1992.

Dr. Pathak developed a technology of two-pit pour-flush toilet, popularly known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya System, which is an appropriate, affordable, indigenous, and culturally acceptable technology. This technology has been declared as one of the Global Best Practices by UN-HABITAT/UNCHS (United DNations Centre for Human Settlements) and recognized and approved by various other national and international agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, UNEP and WSSCC.

The UNDP Human Development Report–2003 has recommended its use to the 2.6 billion people in the world, especially in developing countries, who have no hygienic toiletsin their houses. More than a million bucket toilets have been converted into Sulabh Shauchalayas, liberating nearly more than a million scavengers from the subhuman occupation of cleaning excreta of others and carrying it as head-load. They have been rehabilitated in different vocations with their human rights and dignity restored.

Their sons and daughters are being imparted quality education and vocational training to bring them in the mainstream of society.

It is, indeed, something of a social miracle, the result of his experiment at Alwar in Rajasthan, that a sizeable group of rehabilitated scavengers, who were shunned even for their shadows, and totally ostracised earlier, are now engaged inmaking various kinds of eatables (papads, chutneys, pickles etc.) which are being gladly purchased and used by all and sundry. This has forged a kind of social cohesion and reintegration which was totally unimaginable earlier.

Through this technology all scavengers in India can be liberated from the task of cleaning the 13 million bucket privies manually and 700 million people in India who go for open defecation due to lack of toilet facility, can have toilets in their houses.

Dr. Pathak is the first person in India who has got constructed more than 7,500 public toilets in slums and at public, religious and tourist places and maintained them on a pay-and-use basis, without putting a burden on the public exchequer. More than 10 million people are using these facilities daily.

The practice of untouchability due to scavenging, which is centuries old, has almost been removed. Earlier, talking about a toilet was a taboo in Indian society, but now people talk freely about Sulabh toilets. Because of his painstaking efforts and untiring zeal he has been able to bring about a change in the thoughts, behaviour and attitudes of the Indian people about sanitation and the persons engaged in sanitation work.

Dr. Pathak has also developed a technology for complete recycling and reuse of human excreta from public toilets. In this technology, biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion of excreta, which is used for cooking, lighting, electricity generation, etc. Biogas plant effluent is treated by a simple method to make it colourless, odourless and pathogen-free, making it quite safe for reuse or discharge into rivers or any water body. 160 biogas plants based on human excreta have been installed.

Dr. Pathak has put into practice Duckweed-based waste water treatment technology, which is indigenous and sustainable. For the bio degradable organic waste, he has developed a convenient technology that takes only 10 days to degrade the waste, that too without churning.

I met Dr. Pathak twice, once at Rashtrapati Bhawan and second at the residence of Acharya Nishantketu, in a program organized at his residence on his 84th birthday.

Dr Pathak, has special interest and attachment to literature, culture and society. He always makes sincere efforts to promote it. Dr. Pathak regularly organizes seminars, honors the writers, and publishes literary magazines and books. He also makes regular financial support to the widows of Vrindavan, which provides a glimpse of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak's super human personality.

Honours and acclaims, both national and international, have come a dime a dozen for Dr. Pathak but what inspires him for synergy is the deep love of his country and its people.

In 1991, the President of India conferred on him Padma Bhushan, a very distinctive national award like Knighthood in United Kingdom, for his "distinguished social service" rendered to the nation.

He received various national and international awards for his work with this organization. He was presented with the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academics and Management for the year 2017.

On October 02, 2016, Bindeshwar Pathak presented a book ‘Mahatma Gandhi’s Life in Colour’, compiled and published by Gandhi Serve India to the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

In 2016 itself, in a rare honour, New York City declared this year’s April 14 as ‘Bindeshwar Pathak Day’ in recognition of the contributions made by the Indian social activist and ‘Sulabh International’ founder for improving the lives of people engaged in the “most dehumanising situation”.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio honoured Pathak for his outstanding work to improve health and hygiene and ‘moving the world forward’.

“Pathak has been an example of someone who saw a great injustice, saw something that to many people was impractical and permanent and had the creativity, energy, drive and hope to make the change,” he said at the ceremony on April 14 attended by Pathak, 73, himself.

A coffee table book on the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was globally launched on sep 27, 2017 and presented to several world leaders.

“The Making of a Legend” has images and text depicting Modi’s journey, his struggles and initiatives since assuming the office in 2014.

The book has been written by Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of NGO Sulabh International. Col. Jaibans Singh made special contribution in the book.

Describing Modi as a “true grassroots leader”, Pathak said India is all set to ensure 100 per cent sanitation coverage by 2019.

Should not it be our duty to celebrate the birthday of such a great living legend of our time?

Happy Birthday Dr. Pathak!!

(Onkareshwar Pandey is Editor in Chief & CEO, Indian Observer Post and former Senior Group Editor- Rashtriya Sahara (Hindi & Urdu) and also former Editor - News, ANIhttp://bit.ly/2mh7hih).

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