Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

Experts Blame Social Conditioning; Suggest Hefty Fines On Offenders

New Delhi: While men urinating on Delhi streets is a common sight, the recent shooting of a 17-year-old girl who tried to stop her 26-yearold neighbour from urinating outside her house has shaken public consciousness. Although there is acute shortage of public toilets in the city, experts say a lot must be done to change the mindset of its menfolk. 

“It is social conditioning that has to be blamed. We must change mindsets a n d improve infrastructure. At present, there aren’t many toilets, especially for men, in the city,” Nirat Bhatnagar, principal of Quicksand, a multi-disciplinary innovation consultancy, said. 

The consultancy along with WASHUnited has launched a campaign – Toilets Are Beautiful – in partnership with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to eradicate the twin problems of outdoor defecation and street urination. 

However, many would disagree with Bhatnagar on one count. The erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi did construct some 700-odd urinals for the men of the city but completely forgot its women. And despite allocation of close to Rs 3 crore for women’s toilets in its budget, not a single washroom came up. Post-trifurcation, the three mayors – all women – did nothing to ensure that women have access to clean toilets. “We will do something about it. So far, there has been no proposal for construction of toilets for women,” Annapurna Mishra, mayor of East Delhi Municipal Corporation, said. 

In absence of public toilets, women often look for a restaurant or mall to relieve themselves. “When I am travelling, I prefer not to drink tea or water. If we must go, we walk into a restaurant to use the facilities,” Shweta Saxena, a garments designer, said. 

But with men using the public space, especially pavements, instead, it is the pedestrians who have a rough time. In GK-I M Block, the toilet built by the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi lies in disrepair. The traders’ association claims the new corporation is yet to issue a contract for its maintenance. “The toilet is close to a parking lot and the stench there is unbearable. There are two toilets in the market, neither is maintained,” Rajinder Sharda, chairman of GK-I M Block Traders Association, said. 

The ratio of the city’s population and number of public toilets is abysmal, experts say. There are fewer than 6,000 public toilets and most are not maintained. “Toilets are not on the government’s priority list,” Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, said. 

He believes the government should take up construction of toilets on an urgent basis but impose fine on offenders at the same time. “Though we have to construct new facilities, its maintenance is equally important to encourage people to use it. For street urination, in most foreign countries there is a hefty fine. It makes sense for we must penalize the people who dirty our cities,” Pathak said.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, India.


AFP – With both hands holding the basket of human excrement on her head, widowed grandmother Kela walks through a stream of sewage, up a mound of waste and then dumps the filth while cursing.

"Nobody even pays us a decent wage!" she spits as she rakes mud and rubbish over her newly deposited pile, one of several she drops in the course of her working day cleaning toilets as a "manual scavenger" in India.

She and around 20 other women in the village of Nekpur, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from New Delhi but a world away from its relative wealth, remove the contents of toilets daily using just their hands and a plastic shovel.

Already illegal under a largely ineffective 1993 law, the government has promised to have another go at stamping out the practice with new legislation set to come up in the last parliament session of the year, which opens this week.

Kela and her fellow scavengers in Nekpur live in a handful of mud houses, isolated from the rest of the village. They are considered low-caste even by fellow low-caste Hindus and are seen as the ultimate "untouchables".

Discrimination has eased recently but still they are prevented from keeping livestock and are sometimes stopped from walking near powerful people.

"My life has passed doing this," Kela, a withered illiterate woman thought to be around 60, explained to AFP.

She started after she married — she thinks she was aged 11 or 12, but can't be sure — and is in no doubt about the undignified nature of her profession.

"The smell goes to your head. I often feel sick. After all, we are also humans."

One of the homes she visited was Parveen's, a widowed mother whose small brick construction and concrete yard is home to nine people and three generations.

The toilet — a brick wall around a hole above a pit containing ash and dirt — is emptied from an access point outside on the street, where Kela scoops out the "night soil" into her wicker basket.

"We feel bad about it," says Parveen when asked about the women's plight. "We pity these women and sometimes we try to help them."

She says she pays Kela one piece of bread (a chapati) a day and five kilogrammes of food grains a month. No money is exchanged, as is the case for other scavengers.

Nekpur, a few hours bumpy drive from Delhi, is the sort of rural backwater found in Northern India where the estimated 200,000 scavengers nationwide continue to toil.

Swarms of mosquitoes hover above open drains as naked or barely clothed children play on the streets. Buffaloes outnumber vehicles in the streets.

The new legislation modifies the 1993 law — which criminalised the scavengers — raising the prospect of an end to a practice seen as a medieval throwback with no place in modernising India.

The new law would prohibit the building of non-flushing toilets that must be emptied by hand, and prescribes a one-year jail term and/or a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (900 dollars) for anyone who employs a manual scavenger.

It also requires local authorities to monitor the implementation of the law and sets out tough sanctions if municipalities employ sewer cleaners without protective gear and equipment.

Men wearing only underpants and equipped with just a hoe and a wooden bar can still be found in some towns heading into the stinky depths of septic tanks and sewers.

The national railways — described recently as "the largest open toilet in the world" by a federal minister — are also often picked clean by the scavengers.

Bindeshwar Pathak, of the sanitation charity Sulabh International, says the legislation could prove helpful, but that the final test will be on the ground.

"In India there are many laws that have not helped so far, like (the one to prevent) dowry. Dowry cases are still going on, there is child labour," he said.

"It needs to go both ways: on one hand, the legislation, the other is implementation."

He says there has not been a single successful prosecution under the 1993 Act.

Other activists say public funds intended to retrain scavengers are held back because of bureaucratic inertia or corruption.

"In our democracy, it's a numbers game. If a community is small, no-one cares for them," said Vidya Rawat, director of the Delhi-based Social Development Foundation, which works with scavengers.

He says the only solution is for the government to find jobs for the scavengers, requiring an extension of a vast affirmative action programme which reserves positions for the low-castes and marginalised tribes.

"Rehabilitation programmes don't work," he added. "If a community woman leaves her work and opts to open a tea shop, no one will go to drink at her place."

The persistence of manual scavenging can be traced to deep-rooted factors which continue to afflict India despite three decades of high economic growth.

Caste-based discrimination and the notion of "untouchability" in rural India persists more than 60 years after independence hero Mahatma Gandhi called it the "greatest blot upon Hinduism".

Manual scavenging also points to the lack of investment in modern sewerage systems by a weak state which struggles to provide basic services.

A 2011 survey by the Central Pollution Control Board revealed only 160 out of nearly 8,000 towns had sewerage systems and a sewage treatment plant.

But the women in Nekpur are among the lucky ones in their profession, however, benefiting from a rehabilitation progamme with a chance of success.

Since AFP visited in June, they have been retrained by Sulabh and are now making soaps and candles, holding out hope that they and their children might escape a destiny of humiliation and disease.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

The problem with ‘human waste’ is that it has become a much sanitised term and does not do justice to this story that follows. Even faeces, when used in connection with the digestive tract, somehow give the impression that a reference is being made about animals; or it may give a more scientific cover of putting the ugly issue well under wraps of medicine. On the other hand, the use of the more unsavoury four-letter word makes one look uncivilised.

So how does one talk about poop and pee without the glowers, grimaces, frowns and still make it a serious issue worth including in a conversation concerning sustainable development?

Singaporean businessman Jack Sim who founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001, to bring attention to the lack of sanitation in developing countries, said in TED Talk held in Taipei, in September, this year : “What we don’t discuss, we can’t improve”. Twelve years since, there has been a groundswell of global movement around the issue.

This year, on November 19, events will be taking place to break toilet taboos and highlight the struggle for dignified sanitation for a staggering 2.6 billion people without access to a clean, private toiletand 1.2 billion people (17 per cent of the global population) who practice open defecation. The theme of the campaign put together by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the World Toilet Organization (WTO) this year is: “I give a shit, do you?”

So how do we talk about this issue and break the silence? If we can get past our sense of disgrace, a dialogue can begin, say many.

Perhaps it would be best to tell the story as it is. People may begin to look at it differently, even seriously, if they are told that globally nearly 5,400 children die every day due to diarrhea, (second to pneumonia) preventable if they had soap, water and a clean place to perform their bodily functions, most basic of human rights.

In 2006, it was estimated that 2.5 billion people did not have access to proper sanitation; in 2008 there was an increase of 100 million people to that figure. That is one in every three people worldwide or nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population without a clean toilet.

In South Asia of the over a billion people who do not have access to improved sanitation, nearly 700 million defecate in the open according to theWHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation 2012. There is often an omission of mention of the plight of a vast majority of women, who also defecate in the open, but have to wait until it is dark or before sunrise to relieve themselves.

But really, who gives a shit (pardon the language)?

In television chat shows, so popular in Pakistan, where the politicians banter and cry themselves hoarse to be heard, not once has any one of them had the courage to talk about the yucky issue of latrines. But then it’s a topic not even on the minds of hosts of these shows.

In Pakistan – according to the WHO – of the 173.59 million people, 39.93 per cent defecate in the open. If this trend continues, Pakistan will be able to meet its target of reducing to half the number of people lacking sanitation by 2025, missing the MDG target of 2015 by a decade.

In addition, given other areas that the present government is fire-fighting on a daily basis, it seems highly unlikely that they could be persuaded to spend on latrines. Militancy, violence, lawlessness, power outages and rising food prices seem to have consumed everyone.

“It is not a politically attractive area for investment,” conceded Mustafa Talpur, regional advocacy manager (South Asia) of UK-based non-governmental organisation, WaterAid.

However, even in times of considerable peace, sanitation was never on the radar of politicians.

But to be fair, there is less demand for sanitation than water from those who have neither. Thus politicians always prefer to have water schemes than sanitation. “Politicians want visible things and sanitation pipes are laid underground, and not easily demonstrable,” Talpur told

Even for those media pundits, who may give some space or air time to development issues, toilets remain an even less sexy topic.

When the Code Pink decided to support Imran Khan and travel to South Waziristan, in October, little did they know all what the journey would entail.

The Guardian was the only newspaper that saw it fit to mention that the gruelling journey by these “hardened campaigners” was made all the more nightmarish because they had only “one toilet break in nine hours”. It was perhaps one important reason why the 35-strong team of Americans opted to discontinue into a “chaotic” situation.

What the writer failed to mention was that for millions of women in rural Pakistan, and in South Asia, nine hours curfew is a daily ordeal.

According to the World Health Organization, of the 692 million people defecating in the open in South Asia, India accounts for 90 per cent with 626 million defecating in the open. Compare that to 40 million Pakistanis relieving themselves in the open.

But this year India has decided to actually walk the talk and carried out a series of events to address its poop problem unabashedly. They have even involved Vidya Balan, the Bollywood star of “Dirty Picture” to talk dirty in real life and make sanitation fashionable.

The central government is carrying out the Nirmal Bharat Yatra, and talks about toilets, taps and yes, the unspoken sanitary pads. It even tackles the shame and suffering of the 300 million Indian women because of their menses.

It started from New Delhi, travelled 2,000 kilometres across five states between from October 2 on Gandhi’s birthday and will culminate on Nov 19 in Bettiah, in Bihar with the “World’s Longest Squat.” The participants will squat, like those 1.2 billion people around the world who defecate in the open every day, and see who can squat the longest with observers cheering on.

But it’s still not too late for Pakistan to join in.

For starters, it would be good to have people pledge to the case. It would be a great opportunity for many advocates like Talpur to clamour for governments to start thinking about how to interject the development discourse with sanitation.

Without proper sanitation, the country will not be able to achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, empower women, or reduce child mortality.

And while there are many good policies and programmes and no dearth of political commitments at global and regional level, Talpur lamented these “promises are seldom kept.”

If nothing else, maybe hitting where it hurts most – the purse strings. In 2006, it was estimated that in Pakistan, the total economic impact of inadequate sanitation amounted to a loss of Rs 343.7 billion or about 3.9 per cent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report by World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme.

For the moment, said Talpur, there are no clear and separate investment plans or budget for sanitation. “Sanitation budget is lumped with water when there is need for not just clear institutional responsibility but a clear sanitation budget line and increased allocation.”

What’s even more unfortunate, the civil society is far too weak to make decision makers accountable. Despite strong link of sanitation to other development areas including education, gender equality, nutrition, it is never considered a cross-cutting theme.

The missing link between sanitation and education, too, needs to be addressed. Despite enough evidence that inadequate sanitation brings major disease burden and child mortality, the health sector hardly talks about toilets. “They will talk about the curative while completely disregarding the preventive part of health care system,” said Talpur.

He said the education sector that should build the foundations of behaviour, designs schools with complete disregard for school toilets and where there are toilets, they are in a state of disrepair or not functioning.

The author is a freelance journalist.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

Low-cost sanitation NGO Sulabh International on Sunday offered jobs to three women who revolted against their in-laws for lack of toilets in their respective matrimonial homes in Uttar Pradesh.

On the eve of World Toilet Day, regular jobs were offered to three run-away brides from Gorakhpur area of the State, Sulabh International, which has so far built toilets for 10 million people in India, said in a release.

The women included Priyanka Bharti of Kanchanpur Kuiya village of Maharajganj district of eastern UP. She had hogged the limelight a few months back for refusing to live with her in-laws as they did not have toilet in their home.

Newly-wed Priyanka, who belongs to a Schedule Caste and had run away from her matrimonial home, was earlier given a cash reward of Rs 2 lakh by the NGO, which also built an ultra modern toilet for her.

“The award and the job will act as an inspiration for others to follow,” Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, said.

Besides Priyanka, two other women, Kumari Priyanka and Jyoti Kumari of Siddharthanager and Khusinager districts respectively, were offered jobs, the release said.

The husbands of the women have also been offered jobs by the NGO, which launched a “Toilet For All” campaign on the occasion of World Toilet Day.

Another highlight of the function was formation of a human chain by children of around 20 schools of NCR.

A toilet fair was also held in the sprawling campus of the NGO’s headquarters here.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, In the Press.


After Mahatma GandhiJairam Ramesh is the only national leader to be genuinely concerned that 65 years after Independence, some 600 million Indians in the 21st century continue to use open skies as their latrines. While Lee Kuan Yew continues to exhort Singaporeans to have cleaner loos, our ministry of railways thinks depositing human excreta all along the country's length and breadth, including deep into the cities – at the railway stations – is a smart way to balance its budget.

Clearly, as a country, we don't realise that turning our butts to the world is the same as turning our back to human dignity and civilisation. And yet, our sensibilities are quick to take offence when, for once, a minister talks sense saying India needs more toilets than places of worship.

Our builders and contractors mostly think it perfectly fine to have their workforce use the vicinity of the construction sites as open lavatories. Wedding receptions, political rallies and public parades rarely provide for toilets for the millions who throng the events. Those living in high-rises in the metros rarely provide for toilets for the army of drivers, milkmen and newspaper boys who serve them. Our railway tracks are, of course, the most-used squatting spots.

In 1999, the government, unmindful that an ineffective loo policy by any other name must smell as bad, renamed the Comprehensive Rural Sanitation Programme – as if a name-change by itself can alter reality – to Total Sanitation Campaign, in order "to bring about an improvement in the general quality of life in the rural areas and to accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to access to toilets to all by 2012 by motivating communities and Panchayati Raj Institutions in promoting sustainable sanitation facilities through awareness creation and health education".

In 1999, 2012 must have appeared too far away to worry about delivering the plan. Well, it is 2012 now, and according to 2011 census data, the campaign stinks more than the problem it was supposed to solve. Much money has gone down the non-existing flush, with little to show but heaps of night-soil around the country.

Moscow is dotted with tens of thousands of plastic portable garages for cars. Does India have a large-scale demand for plastic portable loos? The naysayers are in the same mould as those who proverbially assume no demand for shoes in sub-Saharan Africa, because no one wears shoes!

Perhaps India needs to explore portable toilets as one among a menu of solutions needed to address the sanitation challenge. True, creating a strong maintenance backup system in a country that is as short on habits of maintenance as on the habit of using toilets may be daunting. However, given Indian genius for jugaad, would it be inconceivable to hook up portable toilets to the sewerage system in every cooperative housing society, slum, marriage venue, building site, public ground and park, market, bazaar, rally route and what have you, which could help keep safeguard our environment and dignity? In fact, every municipality should be able to mandate such toilets as a compulsory urban sanitation requirement.

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Inadequate sanitation facilities in rural and urban India endanger the safety and health of girls and women as well as force them to drop out of school and quit their jobs. Advocates demand that the government and community prioritize this basic need before pursuing further technological advancements in the country.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – Each dawn brings the same battle for Sangeeta Devi. The simple act of defecation takes tactful planning for the 30-year-old. For Devi, a local community worker, it’s a matter of life or death.

Devi, like the other women of her slum, lacks a toilet in her home. So she wakes up early when it’s still dark, walks toward the bushes on the edge of the slum and squats there to relieve herself.

The daily humiliation is taking a toll on her dignity, she says. But open defecation is more than embarrassing. Often, men hide in the areas women commonly use to go to the bathroom, knowing that this is a position and time when they are vulnerable.

“A few girls were raped on their way to the vacant park near the slum, where they had gone to defecate.”

“Once, a few men put a blanket over me and tried to kidnap me,” Devi says. “I shouted at the top of my voice, and somehow, I managed to escape. But everyone is not lucky like me.”

Devi doesn’t live in poverty-stricken rural India, but right in the heart of the national capital, New Delhi. Her slum, Kirbi Place, is home to migrant laborers from poor northern states. Representative of urban poverty, it lacks sanitation and other basic amenities like scores of other unregistered New Delhi slums.

Inadequate sanitation forces women in both rural and urban areas of India to defecate in the open, leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence. Lack of toilets or maintenance of them also creates health hazards. It forces girls to drop out of school and women to quit their jobs. Some women have improved sanitation in their communities by advocating for change. The government proposes a public-private system in response to citizen demands for the prioritization of sanitation, especially in the city’s slums.

Jairam Ramesh, minister of drinking water and sanitation, recently presented to Parliament that 60 percent of India's population and 70 percent of women don’t have access to a toilet. In July 2012, he deemed India the world's capital of open defecation, according to local media. He also checked excitement about successful missile tests by lamenting that there is no use launching missiles if there are no toilets for women.

The capital is not exempt from the toilet troubles. New Delhi has only 132 public toilets for women, while men have 1,534, according to a 2009 report by the Centre for Civil Society, a nongovernmental research and educational organization devoted to improving citizens’ quality of life.

Suman Chahar, an expert in environmental sanitation and public health, has been working closely with communities in New Delhi, including Devi’s, for the past 17 years.

“This is a very grave and daily issue, particularly for these women,” Chahar says of open defecation. “It concerns their security, health and dignity. Along with shocking incidents of rape and molestation and lewd remarks, I have heard shocking stories of what all these women go through if accidentally they found a man from their community ‘sitting’ next to them in the row.”

The “row” is the line women form outside in the morning and evening to relieve themselves.

Maya Rajasthani, 36, a resident of Rajiv Gandhi Camp, a former refugee camp that is now a slum in New Delhi, describes how the people there lived without a toilet for nearly 25 years.

“While cases of molestation were common, things got ugly when a few girls were raped on their way to the vacant park near the slum, where they had gone to defecate,” the mother of three says.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a nongovernmental organization working to make cost-effective toilets available to rural communities, is a pioneer in India's sanitation movement and has been working in the field for the last four decades.

Pathak says that women in rural India often have to wait until dusk or dawn to sneak out to the fields to relieve themselves, risking molestation as well as bites from scorpions and snakes.

In addition to safety risks, the lack of toilets creates health hazards, Chahar says.

“These women look sick and anemic,” she observes of women in urban slum dwellings.

In slums where there are toilets, other health risks abound for residents because of lack of maintenance.

“During rains, the dirty water [from toilets] enters their huts, and life is miserable for them,” Chahar says. “We have to understand that the risk of infection is more in women. Also, waterborne diseases like diarrhea and stomachache are common.”

Toilet access also affects education for girls.

Chahar says that while there are no toilets in schools in rural areas, there is no upkeep of the toilet complexes in schools in urban areas. Teachers complain that children spoil or dirty the property, she says, so they keep bathrooms locked instead of allowing students constant access to it.

"It's shocking that teachers often lock the toilets," she says.

The lack of access to toilets causes girls ages 12 to 18 to miss around five days of school per month, or around 50 school days per year, according to the 2011 Annual Status of Education Report released by India’s minister of human resource development. Almost 23 percent of girls drop out of school once they start menstruating.

The lack of toilets also affects educated and working women who live in the city’s center.

Joyoti Chopra, a resident of New Delhi, says she was appalled that the building housing the office of the nongovernmental organization where she worked had no proper toilet facilities for women. So she quit her job to advocate for sanitation facilities for women.

Even where there are community toilet complexes with men’s and women’s facilities, people don’t heed the signs.

“How can you have a man casually use lady's toilets in the posh city?” she asks. “It's alarming.”

Open defecation is not only a problem because of the lack of toilets, Chopra says. It’s also a behavioral problem. The reason that India has more mobile phones than toilets, she says, is because hygiene and sanitation don’t receive the same attention as new technology.

Like Chopra, other women are also taking a stand.

Rajasthani organized marches and regular visits to local politicians for two years until she secured funding for toilets for her area in 2007.

Newlywed Priyanka Kumari made news in April 2012 for leaving her marital house in Kushinagar, a district in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state, within days of her wedding because there was no toilet.

“Like my mother-in-law and other women of the area, I was supposed to go out in the fields, which I found very humiliating,” she says. “I gave my husband an ultimatum to get the toilet constructed.”  

Sulabh International Social Service Organisation awarded her and two other brides from Uttar Pradesh who took similar action with 200,000 rupees ($3,700) as well as built toilets in their homes. It also gave 2.5 million rupees ($46,000) to Kumari’s community to improve sanitation. 

But the lack of toilets or maintenance of existing facilities will be a problem until sanitation becomes a priority in India, Pathak says. In an urban context, the problem lies in unregistered slums erected on government property. The government, instead of waiting to recognize them, should construct a satisfactory number of toilet complexes.

“This is an issue that affects everyone, regardless of class,” Pathak says. “Whatever we have in Delhi is not adequate to meet the demand of the population. We should at least have 50,000 well-maintained toilets.”

Yogender Maan, spokesman of Municipal Corporation of Delhi, a governmental body that handles New Delhi’s civic amenities, agrees that the capital needs more toilet complexes in general, and in its slum areas in particular.

“Various surveys have been carried out by various agencies to point out the need for better sanitation facilities in the city,” Maan says. “We are aiming at creating a public-private system where government will construct the toilet complexes and various market associations and residents will come forward for their upkeep. The problems, however, is complex for slum areas.”

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Posted by & filed under In the Press, India, Videos.

Sulabh International is an Indian based social service organization which works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, and non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education. The organization counts 50,000 volunteers. Sulabh International is the largest non-profit organization in India. Sulabh was founded by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak in 1970. Innovations include a scavenging-free two-pit pourflush toilet (Sulabh Shauchalaya); safe and hygienic on-site human waste disposal technology; a new concept of maintenance and construction of pay-&-use public toilets, popularly known as Sulabh Complexes with bath, laundry and urinal facilities being used by about ten million people every day and generates bio-gas and biofertilizer produced from excreta-based plants, low maintenance waste water treatment plants of medium capacity for institutions and industries. Other work includes setting up English-medium public school in New Delhi and also a network of centres all over the country to train boys and girls from poor families, especially scavengers, so that they can compete in open job market.

In Sulabh International's premises in Delhi, the company runs a museum dedicated to the history of sanitation and toilets. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the Founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a pioneering non-profit voluntary organisation (NGO) in the field of Sanitation in India, envisioned the need for the setting up of a museum of toilets in the sprawling campus of his central office at Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Road in New Delhi, India and has consultative status with Economic and Social Council of the U.N.The idea engaged his mind for long, eventually leading him to make hectic worldwide search for minutest details of the evolution of toilets, as also of various toilet designs used in different countries at different points of time. 

The Museum has been established with the following objectives:-

• To educate students about the historical trends in the development of toilets;

• To provide information to researchers about the design, materials, and technologies adopted in the past and those in use in the contemporary world;

• To help policy makers to understand the efforts made by predecessors in this field throughout the world;

• To help the manufacturers of toilet equipment and accessories in improving their products by functioning as a technology storehouse; and

• To help sanitation experts learn from the past and solve problems in the sanitation sector.

Source: & Wikipedia

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A cause close to Mahatma Gandhi’s heart, this community is yet to be identified and uplifted

It is Valmiki Jayanti and schools across north India are shut. Yet Shyamwati, who belongs to the Balmiki community (a Dalit caste believed to be the descendants of sage Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayan), does not have the day off. She criss-crosses the cemented by-lanes in her village, Farrukhnagar in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, at a brisk pace with a round cane basket and a broom on her hip.

She enters a small roofless shed in an employer’s house and dumps her basket on the floor. Then she takes out a flat metal piece about a foot long and 3 inches wide, and looks around for a small white sack which contains fresh ash from the choolah (wood stove). She draws a scoopful of ash, dumps the grey-black-powdery-pebbly mix on a heap of human excreta in a small hole made in the floor of this roofless room, then scrapes it all up and loads it in her basket. All through this 6- to 7-minute task, she has herdupatta covering her nose. Next, she zeroes in on goat faeces littering the area around the shed, picks it up without the ash-sprinkling ritual, dumps it all in her basket, and heads across the road to an open rubbish heap. She empties her basket and then heads off to the next house.
It’s only 9am and she has at least eight more houses to cover.
Shyamwati, who is in her 40s, is a manual scavenger who cleans pakhanas or dry latrines, and one of the 35 or so women in the village of Farrukhnagar who continues to do this “job” for a measly wage ofRs.50-70 per house per month and 8-10 rotis (one roti per house per day) or sometimes a nal (40kg) of wheat from a household per year. She has been cleaning pakhanas for more than 20 years now, ever since she got married. “I hated doing this earlier, now I don’t have a choice. My mother-in-law used to do it, so I had to do it. I just hope my daughters don’t end up in the same job,” she says.
In the 19 years since it has been around, The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, has had no impact on Shyamwati’s life.
“How could that Act have had any impact on the lives of manual scavengers? There was no focus on their plight. Do you know that even though this Act was passed in 1993, it was not notified until 1997; and by 2000, only five states had adopted it?” asks Delhi-based Wilson Bezwada, the founder and national convener of Safai Karamchari Andolan, a group dedicated to ending manual scavenging. “If scavengers stop this work, what are they supposed to do? People like Shyamwati have to eat too. Till we don’t create alternative occupations for this community, we cannot get rid of manual scavenging. The 1993 Act hardly focused on the rehabilitation aspect,” he adds.
Discussion is the key
Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, Delhi, who has been working in the field of sanitation, and for the end of manual scavenging, for 44 years, asks a simple question: So many aspects of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings have been picked by other people and carried on, why not this one? “That’s because as a society we are not comfortable talking about sanitation or scavenging. This is ‘dirty work’ and we don’t like discussing it,” he says. In his opinion if we want to eradicate scavenging we need to adopt a four-pronged approach: “First, rehabilitate scavengers by giving them vocational training; second educate their children; third preventing the construction of dry latrines alone will not work, we must provide low-cost solutions of wet toilets that can be built easily in minimal spaces and don’t require sewage disposal systems; and finally, integrate members of this community within society by taking them to temples or eating with them and also by not allowing any other tasks associated with their community to be restricted to them. For example, for a long time only members of this community were expected to carry news of death. All this must stop,” says Pathak.
The Prohibition of Employment As Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill 2012, introduced in September in the Lok Sabha, is not an ideal Bill, but it does have a better approach because it discusses rehabilitation, says Ashif Shaikh, Dewas- (Madhya Pradesh) based convener of the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan. It will be organizing a Maila Mukti Yatra, a march from Bhopal to Delhi, at the end of the month to create awareness about the issue and motivate more people to leave this occupation.
“The one good thing is that the Bill has been introduced by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, which means hopefully there will be a focus on rehabilitation. The earlier Act had been tabled by the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation and the focus was more on sanitation and less on identification and rehabilitation of scavengers,” says Shaikh.
Everyone must consent
But this is not enough. For effective implementation of this Bill it will be important that a provision be made right now to include all the agencies concerned, such as the Indian Railway or the army, where the practice of manual scavenging (including people who work in septic tanks and sewage pipes) still exists, to comply with regulations and safety norms.
It is also surprising that no serious attempt has been made to identify the people employed in this trade even though one of the provisions of the 1993 Act stipulated this. Wilson and Pathak say a Supreme Court notice of 2003 asking the government and its agencies to spell out why the identification was not carried out did not help much. The 1993 Act has a huge loophole, says Wilson. Most manual scavengers are hired by municipal and government bodies and hence come under the jurisdiction of the district magistrate. “A magistrate must identify a manual scavenger. Now if the magistrate says that there are manual scavengers working in his area, then it is he who is liable to be punished because the Act prohibits ‘him’ or the government agency of which he is in charge from employing people in such roles. Is it any wonder that for a long time many government agencies denied that scavenging exists? That it exists still was confirmed in the 2011 census and that why the need for this new Bill was felt,” says Wilson.
The new Bill still does not address this issue adequately, according to him. He says civil society should also be allowed to work on identifying scavengers in association with government bodies.
Apart from bureaucratic apathy, Shaikh believes another reason why people from the scavenging community are not able to leave this work is because even within the Dalit community, they have no say. “The Balmikis are the lowest of the low and powerful lobbies within the Dalit community do nothing to help them or raise their voice against this pratha (practice). We hope through the Maila Mukti Yatra we will be able to explain to people that doing this work is not just a job but a form of slavery.”
This is slavery, says Shyamwati. “Even if we want to leave this, people in the village will not let us. Even now if we are sick for a few days and don’t turn up, people come to our house to fight with us.” From conversations with women scavengers in Farrukhnagar, it was clear that this job is now being left to the women of the community, and even families are not encouraging women to leave this practice.
In fact, one of the men accompanying us, who now works as a labourer at a construction site, had no answer when we asked why he was encouraging other women to leave scavenging when his own wife still worked in eight houses as a manual scavenger.
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Posted by & filed under In the Press, International, Interviews.

Fala Fil talked to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of the Sulabh International Toilet Museum. He is Ph.D., D.Litt. Action Sociologist and Reformer, International Expert on Cost-Effective, Biogas and Rural Development.

Read below the full interview.

The “Toilet” is part of the history of humanity. The first pieces were developed over five thousand years. Where in the first toilets were developed?

Historically speaking the first wet toilets are recorded to have come in use in the third millennium BC meaning some 5000 years ago.

At Skara Brae, an island of North Scotland, there are some wet toilet constructions of the mentioned period. However, some experts of the field express doubts about their being toilets. During the period under consideration, flush toilets were also perhaps in use in Egypt and Mesopotamia. But, there is no doubt about the existence of pour-flush toilets of the Indus Valley people of the Bronze Age or New Stone Age (5000 years ago). Some of them are still extant in Sindh province of modern Pakistan. They may be treated as first wet toilets.

How did the idea of creating the “Toilet” Museum in New Delhi?

I have been engaged in sanitational field since 1970. Once while in England when I visited Madame Tussauds in London. I got the idea of establishing a Museum of Toilets in New Delhi so that the people associated with the subject including scholars, researchers, teachers, students, architects and journalists could learn about the history of toilets.

This idea persuaded me to set up the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in 1992, perhaps the first of its kind in the world.

The “Toilet” is a piece and subject that can be seen and approached in several angles: As an essential part of hygiene, the aspect of design and technology, among others. What are the points raised by the Museum?

The museum works for the following objectives:

To educate students about the historical trends in the development of toilets.

To provide information to researchers about the design, materials and technologies adopted in the past and those in the contemporary world.

To help policy makers to understand the efforts made by their predecessors in this field throughout the world.

To help the manufacturers of toilet equipments and accessories in improving their products by functioning as a technological storehouse.

To help sanitation experts learn from the past and solve problems in the sanitation sector.

Tell us about the Museum Collection. How many pieces? What is the oldest piece? The most valuable? The most curious?

There are nearly 300 pieces on display today.

The display shows and relates to the oldest wet toilets, drains (both open and underground) and public bath of Indus Valley, today referred to as the Harappan settlement of 5000 years ago.

The most valuable piece is an electric toilet, named Incinolet from USA. Over ten years back when we purchased it, the value of US dollar in rupee being much less, it had cost US 0.2 million.

There is also a photograph of a Russian made toilet for use in a satellite. Its original which cost 19 million dollar is presently with NASA. The most curious piece is the throne-like chamber pot of the French Emperor, Louis XIV, 17thcentury who while using it, used to give audience to the people.

If we consider 5000 years, how was the evolution of the Toilet during this period?

For thousands of years, when the proto-historic man lived in the forests, he defecated like other animals.

In the New Stone Age, he started giving up the forest life and making his own shelter and, shunning and not liking being near excreta he resorted to defecation in the open, away from the residential area.

As a matter of fact this practice gave birth to the concept of a toilet. When he became more comfort loving, at the fag end of the third millennium BC, he decided to use water closets as the toilets came nearer and nearer to the residential area, rather entered it. After that, till today there has been no perceptible innovation in the concept.

The changes have occurred only in raw material-used, design and color. Under pressure of paucity of potable water today, there is a hectic search for water free toilets, a couple of which stand displayed in Sulabh toilet Museum. Development is a continuous process and hence man’s ingenuity may bring up startling experiments in this field. Socio-sanitational compulsions will shape the future ‘glorious-thrones’.

Despite being apart directly related to hygiene and public health, even today we can find various locationsaround the world who does not know the Toilet. What percentage of the world population are still unaware of the“Toilet”?

Today, the world’s population is nearly 7 billion. Some years back, when it stood at 6 billion, the UNDP had said that 2.6 billion people on this planet had no access to ‘improved’ toilets. Despite the Millennium Development Goals being followed seriously, the UNDP slogan of ‘toilet for all’ still remains a far cry.

The act to use or not using the “Toilet” and its evolution is more related to cultural or economic aspects?

Nobody can deny the inseparable relation between toilet and economy or that between toilet and culture. Good availability of toilets hints at good economy of a country. Absence of a toilet or dirty toilet makes people ill and weak. The consequent absenteeism results in the loss of mandays and ultimately production.

On the other hand, according to an expert, one dollar invested in sanitation brings eight dollars in improved productivity. The use of toilet is also related to culture. Its design varies from culture to culture depending upon geographical factors and historical development. Its use is inter-connected with ideas of pollution and purity, of its relationship with health and hygiene. Percentage toilet coverage of population is closely related to funding and economy and awareness and priority that is accorded to it by the people in general.

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Posted by & filed under Africa, Articles, In the Press.

One among thousands or maybe even millions African sayings say that when a person invites you to their house, they consider you a friend but when they invite you to their ancestral home, then consider yourself part of the family.

I had the immense privilege of visiting Bihar State in India where the Founder of Sulabh International, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak was born.

For those unfamiliar with Dr Pathak, he was born at Rampur Baghel village in Vaishali district of Bihar. Dr Pathak’s grandfather was a famous astrologer who, believe it not, predicted the death of his own sibling at a certain age that actually happened.
He had also predicted that the wealth that his son, Dr Pathak’s father would be left with would one day all whether away and that too, happened. His father is an ayurvedic (a holistic healing science) doctor and so he came from a prosperous, respected family.
Dr Pathak was the proverbial child with a silver spoon. He grew up in a sprawling house with a large compound. There were nine rooms including a prayer room and another where only atta, a flour used to make most South Asian flat breads such as chapatti, roti, naan and puri was ground. Water too was drawn from this room.
This house still stands today and though it is in ruin, it all the same stands. I made a tour of the house and saw the unique well split into two by a wall. My host told me that it was built in such a way that one side was used by men while the other was used by women.
The reason for the split was that men should not catch a glimpse of women when the latter were drawing water to bathe. Bihar was and still is a very conservative state.
One very distinctive feature that I noticed was that there was no toilet in the compound.
Dr Pathak then told me every morning at 4.00 a.m, there was total chaos in the house as women had to get up early and complete their personal cleanliness before sunrise.
“Even though I would be in bed, I was aware of all the activity. Some woman picked up a bucket, another was drawing water, while some one would push another to hurry up. In case a woman in the house fell sick, she would have to relieve herself in a straw basket or a pot lined with ash,’ he told me.
During my trip to his home town, I visited the four schools that he attended. Back in his time as a student, there were two distinctive features, one was that there were no toilets and two, there were no female students.
As the tour progressed, I was fortunate enough to pump into one of his school mates who, when probed on whether he ever saw something special about Dr Pathak, said that his kindness was a rare trait, but like all other children at that age, he climbed trees and did other naughty things.
During the two weeks, I visited the capitals of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Rajasthan State in Jaipur, Tonk, Alwar and Delhi. However, the memories of Bihar, will linger on my mind for a long while, largely because of the countryside fresh air, the sights and sounds of the moving trains, the fresh vegetables I mercilessly devoured and the thrilling stories I was told about the history of this great man who also happened to be my host, Dr Pathak and the birth of the Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement.
I realise now narrating the whole story of how Dr Pathak became ‘successful’ may take probably forever and so I will give snapshots of it. By the way the ‘successful’ is in quotes because for two weeks I tried cajoling Dr Pathak to admit that his work and sacrifices have been a success and totally failed.
That’s just how modest he is but does say that, in reference to the technologies that he has developed over the years and that have made a difference to millions of people the world over, “You take a seed planted by someone else and water it. The fruits of the labour are just as sweet!”
Some key lessons I learnt from Dr Pathak, a person I am very proud to call a friend and a great host: Always keep your options open in life. Dr Pathak started out as a schoolteacher, joined the family of ayurvedic medicines, was supposed to major in Criminology but ended up being in the centenary celebrations committee for Mahatma Gandhi and got engrossed in sanitation.“Our movement is to restore the human rights and dignity of untouchables (the lowest caste who manually clean toilets). And to bring them into the mainstream of society. The toilets, biogas plants, all these are means to achieve that dream,” he kept reminding me. 
Messengers of God are everywhere. During Dr Pathak’s journey of establishing his now renowned NGO, he sought a grant from the Indian government of 70,000 Rupees and a 50,000 Rupee grant was sanctioned.
Unfortunately in 1971, the government fell and he was asked to meet one Rameshwar Nath. When Mr Nath saw Dr Pathak he laughed for he had expected a seventy year old man with a walking stick as the Secretary of the NGO.
 He told him that he saw that his work would create a dramatic impact in India but worried that asking for grants won’t have the desired results. He gave him a life lesson,” Don’t ask for grants, charge money for doing your work.” This has been the model Sulabh has adopted ever since.
There will always be hard times in life, keep God closest. Running an NGO is no easy task when you are not getting any work. During his journey, Dr Pathak had to sell the little property he still owned in the village and also had to sell his wife’s jewelry.
“I remember how girls whose parents could not afford a good enough dowry cried in their in-laws houses. People would taunt them that their father has sent them without a fridge or a car – your family has no status. When I got married, I could not afford to buy my wife the kind of jewelry which is generally given to the bride and even that I had to sell,” he narrated to me.
It’s okay to act without thinking twice sometimes. Dr Pathak in the early days only specialised in transforming toilets connected to the sewage system into twin pit latrines. 
In 1974 the Patna Municipal Corporation Administrator asked him to build a toilet block in a span of 24 hours. You see, there was a large piece of open space opposite the Reserve Bank of India where two to three thousand of men and women used to relieve themselves. 
With 20,000 Rupees in his hand, he ordered his workmen to bring twenty truckloads of red sand. By the time it arrived, it was late evening. Then he told them to bring as many potted plants, brushes and trees as possible whatever the price.
Then a big pit was dug and filled with sweet smelling sandalwood. At 7am when the Administrator came, he was thrilled with the changes, you see his superior had wanted something to be done about the black spot and it was. That was another turning point of Sulabh International.
I am currently reading a book titled “I have a dream’ by Rashmi Bansal that partly features Dr Pathak. His advice to young entrepreneurs is, “create your own identity and leave your own stamp in whatever you choose to take up. I told my son to take up some work other than Sulabh and to be number one in a field of one is a great feeling.”