Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has taken up the initiative of Swachh Bharat Mission wherein a large-scale drive has been initiated to keep our surroundings clean and construct toilets on mass level.
Speaking on the ramparts of the Red Fort during his first maiden speech as the Prime Minister on Independence Day, the Prime Minster appealed to the people of India to make it a mission to keep India clean.
He said cleanliness is the first work he started after forming the government. He appealed and I quote “125 crore countrymen decide that they will never litter, no power in the world has the power to make our cities and villages dirty?” Can’t we resolve this much.”
He further said “….. we are living in the 21st century. Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in the open? Whether dignity of women is not our collective responsibility? The poor women folk of the village wait for the night: until darkness descends, they can’t out to defecate. What bodily torture they must be feeling ….
However, we need to understand that keeping roads clean alone will not in itself solve India’s cleanliness problems. I have repeatedly said though the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is focusing more on cleanliness, it should also aim to provide toilet coverage to all Indian households, which can bring down the need to employ manual scavengers.
We need also to confront the cultural reasons for bad sanitation. Hindu tradition, seen for example in the “Laws of Manu”, a Hindu text some 2,000 years old, encourages defecation in the open, far from home, to avoid ritual impurity. Caste division is another factor, as by tradition it was only the lowliest in society, “untouchables” (now Dalits), who cleared human waste. Many people, notably in the Hindu-dominated Gangetic plains, today still show a preference for going in the open—even if they have latrines at home.
Mahatma Gandhi took up a broom in his hands in 1901, when he went to attend a conference of Congress in Calcutta. He picked up a basket and a shovel and started cleaning the night soil. It is then that people started following his example. Earlier, they had refused to clean the toilets because they said it was the job of the untouchables and not the upper caste.
Mahatma Gandhi settled in India in 1915 to lead India’s freedom movement. He had many dreams for an independent India. Sanitation and cleanliness were at the top of the list. He said, “I want independence later, clean India first.” He gave the concept of using trench latrine, which he used in Phoneix Ashram in South Africa. He also gave the concept of ‘Tatti par mitti’ that is ‘Soil on human excreta’.
After defecation, he wanted people to cover the waste with soil so that the flies did not sit on excreta and later on the food. This practice helped stop many diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery from spreading.
After Gandhi’s death in 1948, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi is the only other national leader, who has taken up the cause of providing toilets to all by 2019. He even talked about sanitation and toilets with the US President Mr. Barack Obama.
He is the first Prime Minister who has openly spoken about Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the need for toilets. No other Prime Minister has done this before. It shows his concern and desire to keep India clean. His initiative has created waves in the entire country.
Today the entire nation is talking about sanitation, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and is making an effort to keep public spaces clean.
I also introduced the system of maintenance of public toilets on ‘pay & use’ basis. In 1878, an Act was passed in Bengal, during the British period, to maintain public toilets on ‘pay & use’ basis. However the system could not work.
In 1974, for the first time, I introduced the system of maintenance of public toilets on ‘pay & use’ basis. This system does not put any burden on public exchequers, who maintain the public toilets. Initially people were skeptical about the functioning and the success of the system.
Like Gandhiji, I have also worked for more than four decades to provide sanitation and toilet facilities to India’s masses. Millions of women now have access to toilets, which has not only given them privacy but also ensured their safety and dignity. Now the girls can go to schools because of the availability of the toilets.
I also came up with the concept of maintenance of public toilets in 1974 in Patna, Bihar. The same concept now has crossed the national border and reached Kabul in Afghanistan and several African countries.
In the year 1968-69, I invented two technologies, one for the individual houses and another for the public spaces. Sulabh toilets are environment friendly and a model of sustainability. They require only 1 litre of water to flush per use, which helps stop wastage of potable water. It is also economical, so that every household in India can afford it. Based on this design, Sulabh has constructed 1.3 million toilets so far. The Government of India has also built 54 million toilets following Sulabh’s example.
Different countries like China, Afghanistan and many African countries have adopted my technology. It has also been accepted by international agencies like World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (Un-Habitat), World Bank, and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). This technology can also help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in all three continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Swami Vivekananda had said, “No positive factor can help you, until you are single minded for success. Take up one idea as your life – think of it, dream of it and live on that idea. And success is yours for sure.”
Because of my invention, India can now hope to become free from open defecation. This technology has replaced the bucket toilets with flush toilets economically. It has also allowed me to bring a significant change in the lives of another community of India – the manual scavengers, who manually clean the night soil – a shameful, hazardous, and inhuman occupation.
Now 15 million people use these facilities every day and the system is being favoured throughout the country. We have built about 8000 public toilets all over the nation and many other NGOs and companies have also adopted this system.
We are planning to provide similar facilities in 50 countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. We have also trained engineers, administrators, planners, and architects from 15 African countries for the same reason.
The other technology I developed is a biogas digester linked with public toilets. It is a special system in which human excreta goes through the biogas digester. When decomposition takes place it produces biogas. This biogas can be used for cooking, lighting mantle lamps, and electricity generation. It can also be used to produce energy supply for the street lights.
Water discharged from biogas digester is treated through Ultra Violet rays. When the water goes through this process it becomes pure. This water is safe to be discharged in river bodies or to be used as a fertilizer in the field to raise the productivity. I recommend this technology to be adopted in housing colonies, high-rise buildings, schools, colleges, and hospitals where there is provision of sewerage system. In this biogas digester human excreta is fully recycled.
I have got about 200 biogas plants linked with public toilets installed all over the country. We have also constructed 5 such public toilets with biogas digester in Kabul, Afghanistan and they are functioning very well. In 2007 the temperature went down to -300C and all the complexes worked very well despite the harsh winter.
Change in the society is possible if we ourselves become the agent of change. We need collective action of everyone to reform the unjust practices of our society, and today as I stand in front of this esteem audience I can say that the change is taking place but we need to make more efforts.
Lastly, I want to say that “The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has ignited the candle of cleanliness among Indians to make India clean. He has asked Indians to restore the culture of sanitation which Indians had during Harappan civilization. We should join hands with the Prime Minister with all the might and resources, to make India clean and free from defecation in the open. Be civilized, be cultured, be clean, make India clean and standout in the row of civilized, cultured and clean nations.”