Friday, February 12th, 2016
By – Alfie D’Souza-Team Mangalorean
Mangaluru: The Mangalore Sociology Association (MSA) founded in 1990 completed its 25 years on 29 December 2015. As part of the celebrations a National Conference on ‘Social Sciences and Social Development’ was organised in collaboration with the Dept of Sociology, St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangaluru, on 12th at St Aloysius College Campus. The two-day National conference will end on 13 February 2016.
The inauguration ceremony began at 10.00 am, with Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the Founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, New Delhi, along with other dignitaries namely Prof. GK Karanth, Former faculty ISEC, Bangalore (who also will be delivering the Key-note address during the session); Prof. Nil Ratan, AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna; Rev Fr Denzil Lobo Sj- Rector of St Aloysius Institutions; Dr Vinay Rajath-President of MSA; Dr Alwyn D’Sa- HOD of Political Science, St Aloysius College; Rev Fr Swebert D’Silva Sj-Principal, St Aloysius College; Dr Richard Pais- Founder member of MSA and Retd. Professor in Sociology, SAC; Fr Alphonse Fernandes Sj-Organizing secretary of MSA conference; and Vijay Alva-Secretary of MSA.
Prior to the inauguration, the dignitaries were led to the dais, followed by invoking God’s blessing through a prayer song rendered by Mark and his team-the students of SAC. Rev Fr Swebert welcomed the gathering, while Dr Vinay Rajath spoke about the Theme and conference. Rajath said that The Association, as an academic body in its glorious 25 years has organised 20 Conferences and Seminars 15 special lectures, 26 subject related workshops and 14 student centred activities. “MSA regularly publishes its journal Samaja Shodhana and till now has published 19 Sociology text books for Degree classes. National recognition for MSA came with the organization of XX All India Sociological Conference in 1993 at St Aloysius College” he added.
In his inaugural address, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak said, ” Social sciences are academic disciplines that study human aspects of the world. hey emphasize the use of the scientific method in the study of humanity, including quantitative and qualitative methods. The main social sciences include: Anthropology, Criminology, Economics, education, History, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology. On the other hand development is the process of adding improvements; the process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factors and their interactions. Sociology is much concerned with social developments”.
He also spoke about intolerance and about the sanitation issues in India. (The complete speech is published below this report in our website). Concluding his motivational and inspiring speech, Dr Pathak said, “Sulabh has brought change in many lives of the people across the nation. We will have to embrace people of all all religion, caste, sex, and so that they have full liberty to enjoy their life as per their wishes and choices. Education begins at home. It is our responsibility to teach our children about values that respects others irrespective of them of social status, religion, creed or colour. Our constitution is one of the most liberal and progressive in the world, but it will have meaning if we as citizens of India live by the values enshrined in our constitution”.
Dr Richard Pais did the introduction of the book-” Society and Culture in Karnataka” which was released by Prof. G K Karanth. Also the 25th issue of the journal ” Samaja Shodhana” was a;so released during the occasion by Prof. Nil Ratan. Past presidents of MSA were also honored during the occasion. Rev Fr Denzil Lobo Sj addressing the gathering spoke about the tremendous contribution of the Jesuit priests in the field of education, quoting Nelson Mandela’s words, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. The vote of thanks was proposed by Fr Alphonse Sj
The valedictory programme will be held on 13th February 2016 at 3.00 pm. Prof. Jogan Shankar, honourable vice-chancellor of Kuvempu University, Shimoga, will deliver the valedictory address. Prof. Gayathridevi KG, former faculty ISEC Bangalore will be the guest. Rev Fr Francis Almeida, Vice-principal, St Aloysius College, Mangaluru will preside over the programme. About 500 delegates are participating in this conference.
‘Social Sciences and Social Development’
by: Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak-Ph.D., D.Litt.(Founder-Sulabh Sanitation Movement), Sociologist and Social Reformer
I am grateful to the Mangalore Sociology Association, Mangaluru and Department of Sociology and Association of Humanities, St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangaluru for giving me the opportunity to inaugurate the National Conference on Social Sciences and Social Development. I am thankful to Hon’ble Prof. Richard Pais and the organizers for inviting me and to share my views on the subject.
In the field of social sciences, I belong to the discipline of sociology. As you know, sociology is a study about the society, human relationships, culture, values etc. It is one thing to study the thematic issues of social sciences but it is equally imperative and important to analyse the application of social sciences in solving the problems of the society. Whether the subject of social science will be confined to pedagogy and research or will have a wider practical use is something that we must constantly consider.
Action makes a difference. Mahatma Gandhi had said, “an ounce of action is more important than tones of knowledge.” World history is replete with examples of great men and women who have been able to translate an idea and knowledge into actions. May it be Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa. They believed in taking actions, and their call for action triggered discourses and narratives that helped societies reform and imbibe changes for the greater benefit of humankind.
President of USA, John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. India has achieved great heights following its independence. The green revolution in 1960s made it self-sufficient in food production; it achieved great feats in science and technology; developed heavy industries and also became an IT super power. India’s space programme sent a low cost operational mission to Mars and succeeded at the first attempt where others have failed. Despite these remarkable achievements, the country has fallen behind in social development. We rank poorly in the Global Human Development Index and we must all ensure that a civilization like ours must get the social priorities right to be able to provide the basics to our teeming millions. It is only then can we truly claim to be recognized as a nation to be reckoned with in the 21st century.
In 1985, I talked about the concept of action sociology. Before me, sociologists had discussed about social pathology and sociology in action, but for the first time I raised this issue after a lapse of about 100 years. Although a paper was published in 1896 but nothing concrete was achieved. I strongly argued that sociology should not be confined to pedagogy and research alone, but also it should have an intervening capacity to fix the problems of the society. After 30 years of my hard work and persuasion, action based sociology was finally introduced in the university curriculum at MKS Bhavnagar University, Gujarat, at the graduation level, and it has started teaching sociology of sanitation.
Some other universities in the country have also agreed to teach sociology of sanitation from the next academic session. My dream wish is that sociology of sanitation should be taught in all universities of India and abroad. I want to draw your attention to real life story of a girl who is working as a police constable in Amer, Rajasthan. She had a dream that her bridegroom should come for the wedding riding on a horse. The bridegroom came on the horse, but was forced to get off from the horse by the villagers. The dream of the girl was not fulfilled. Now we have to analyse how the society has evolved socially. It shows the lack of social development
In the eyes of law everybody is equal but socially people are discriminated against, and are still not on a par with others. Let’s talk about the recent case of Signapur near Shirdi in Maharashtra where by tradition, women are prohibited from offering worship at the famous temple’s sanctum sanctorum owing to the myth of ‘harmful vibration emanating from the Saturn God or Lord Shani.’
This sounds appalling in the sense that it a woman, who as a mother, bears a child in her womb, undergoes the pangs of labour. She nurtures the boy who becomes a man, and then it is him, who considers women like his mom to be inauspicious to worship the Lord Shani. This is a classic case of social discrimination, and how society clings on to formulaic ideas which are regressive. So in my opinion India has not attained the equality in the society and the general discrimination still persists. I would like to tell you how I empowered former untouchables to be on a par with others in Alwar and Tonk. In my experiment, with the two towns in Rajasthan, I found that the caste of the untouchables may remain same but their prestige and dignity can be brought to the same level as Brahmin’s and other castes.
Maybe we cannot get rid of the caste system. But the discrimination against the lower caste can be stopped by the society. I demonstrated that with the two towns in Rajasthan. I took up a five-fold programme to restore the human rights and dignity of the untouchables there and to make them a part of the mainstream society. My first step was to relieve them of the work of cleaning human excreta by converting the dry pit toilets into Sulabh flush toilets. Since owners got flush toilets, they did not raise any objections. Next, I set up a vocational training centre. It was named “Nai Disha”. It is known that education is the key to human development. So we first taught them how to read and write. For three months we gave them stipend in cash, but once they learnt to read and write, we gave them cheques so that they could withdraw money from the bank.
The next step was to make them economically independent. The women scavengers themselves took the decision regarding the selection of courses. We trained them in different fields like food processing as well as market oriented trades like tailoring, embroidery, fashion designing, and beauty-care. The women who underwent the training at the centre have acquired self-confidence. In fact, it has boosted their morale and they are now engaged in self-sustaining professions. Next I wanted to break the concept of ‘twice born’. I helped them perform rites and rituals of the Brahmins and the other upper castes. Initially, there was resistance from the people and they denied them even entry into the temples.
I decided to take the matters in to my hands and lead some of the out castes to the Nathdwara temple. But we were met with resistance. Instead of taking a confrontationist attitude, I took the path of persuasion and successfully convinced the Priests to allow us entry. I am happy to say that my efforts succeeded, were allowed entry into the temple. Now the same Brahmin families offer them a cup of tea and have even invited the ‘untouchables’ on two separate occasions to attend the marriages of their daughters. The scavengers freely mingle with the families of upper castes, especially the families, who earlier employed them to clean and carry night soil. This demonstrates a change in the mind set and attitude of the people of the society. There is hardly any sign of untouchability in these towns now. The two towns of Rajasthan have been successfully declared scavenging free.
The vocational training centre at Alwar is a unique case of women empowerment. This is the best model for taking up rehabilitation programme for the liberated scavengers in all the States of India. The untouchable scavengers also got the opportunity to attend the World Toilet Summit in 2007 in Vigyan Bhawan. Prince of Orange of Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, now the King of Netherlands, gave them an audience on that occasion. He offered them flowers, and assured them that they will be invited by the UN-ECOSOC to take part in the proceedings of the United Nations. The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations invited these liberated scavenger women in 2008 to attend the Proceedings of the House at the.United Nations. They also walked the ramp with famous models from United States of America and India. They went to see the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of liberty, equality and freedom, and they were so overwhelmed that from this great monument they gave a clarion call that they are no more ‘untouchables’ and have now achieved real freedom.
If Government of India and the society want these scavengers to be relieved from their sub-human occupation, rehabilitated and brought into the mainstream of the society, then they can follow the Alwar and Tonk model. Today, nobody can say that there is no answer or solution to the problem of scavenging or untouchability in India. You can ask the former scavengers from the two villages how they have ceased to be untouchables. There is another section of women in India, who are largely marginalized by the society. The poor and destitute widows living in the city of Vrindavan. In 2012, Honorable Supreme Court of India recognized this, and Sulabh’s potential to do something about it. It asked us if we could provide food for the widows of Vrindavan.
I immediately agreed and personally went to Vrindavan to meet these widows in 2012. I reached Vrindavan and saw the pitiable conditions of these widows. They wanted to die and used to cry bitterly narrating the misery of their lives. I decided to take up their cause and within the space of one year the lives of these widows had changed completely. I started by giving each widow a monthly stipend of Rs. 2000 for their food and education in three languages- Bangla, Hindi and English. I also started their vocational training in different fields like, tailoring, garland making, and making incense sticks. This gave them a chance to be more independent and get involved with the mainstream society. We also provided them with basic facilities like television and refrigerators. Most of these widows had been left to fend for themselves and are really old. The oldest widow is 108 years old. There were no health care or medical facilities available at the ashrams. So we arranged for ambulances with medical facilities, when they needed to go to hospital for immediate medical care.
Most important thing that we managed to do for them was to provide them with honour and dignity even in their death. Now, after their death, cremation is being performed with proper rites and rituals. The situation for the neglected widows of Vrindavan has changed dramatically. Now they have a desire to live, and they want to live a happy life. They say they have suffered a lot for the past 30-40 years, but now they want to enjoy their life before they die. These women were treated as outcasts not just by the society but also by their families. On the basis of old customs, they were left to live their life in misery in a different city. Most of them came to Vrindavan from the region of Bengal and arrived at very young ages. They were banned from taking part in any ritual and ceremonies of life. They were not even allowed to celebrate any festivals. Sulabh brought a change in their lives. We arranged for them to celebrate all festivals like Holi, Diwali, and even Christmas. This year they also got a chance to tie the holy thread of Rakhi on the wrist of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi.
We will have to embrace people of religion, caste, sex and so that they have full liberty to enjoy their life as per their wishes and choices. Education begins at home. It is our responsibility to teach our children about values that respects others irrespective of them of social status, religion, creed or colour. Our constitution is one of the most liberal and progressive in the world, but it will have meaning if we as citizens of India live by the values enshrined in our constitution.
Note : The above speech on ” Social Sciences and Social development” was delivered by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak during the inaugural ceremony of 2-day conference on ” Social Sciences and Social Development” held at St Aloysius College on 12 February, 2016.