Wed, Sep 6 2017
New Delhi: Actor and Stand-up comedian Raju Srivastav in the presence of school children demonstrates on the use of Toilets and Sanitation facilities as part of âPrime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, during his visit to Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi on Sept 6, 2017.
Women were the agents of change who made Hirmathla, a village in Haryana’s Mewat region, free of open defecation. And this was much before Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
Aasha Khosa | September 5, 2017
A quiet Arab spring led by the veiled womenfolk of Hirmathla is behind making this village in Nuh district, and for that matter, nearly all of Haryana an open defecation free (ODF) zone. Women who for generations and till recently had to cringe in shame, put up with mental agony and physical pain to deal with something as natural as the process of expelling undigested matter are now in the forefront to maintain the ODF status of the village. The difference, however, is that the revolution in Hirmathla happened much before prime minister Narendra Modi initiated the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
One of the prime movers of the villagers’ initiative is Vijay Laxmi, 39, a mother of three, who dons the mantle of safai volunteer in the village, just 50 km from Millennium City Gurugram, where MNCs and the world’s best businesses have set up shop. The village – and indeed the entire Mewat region, including the district and parts of Rajasthan and western UP – is in stark contrast from Gurugram of glass-and-concrete high-rises, malls, pubs and posh bars. Here, as Vijay Laxmi says, “Some families still try to save water and make their children defecate in the drain or out in the open.” As a volunteer, she tries to prevent that. “After a lot of suffering, our surroundings have become clean. We can’t afford to become complacent about this and hence I keep a close watch,” she says. She keeps a lookout for ODF violators, persuades them to use toilets, and at times offers them a couple of pails of water from her own tank for flushing the latrine.
Vijay Laxmi’s story is at the heart of Hirmathla’s quiet toilet revolution, which happened much before the Swachh Bharat Mission had offered to provide toilets to all Indians. She was born in a village near Bharatpur in Rajasthan, where her father was a lecturer at a higher secondary school. As there was no girls-school beyond Class 8 in her village then, her parents decided to marry her off when she was 14.
All her life, she had been used to having a toilet at home. But when she came to Hirmathla, 25 years ago as a child bride, she was shocked to see that her new home did not have a toilet. “I had no idea how I would live my entire life here,” she recalls. In fact, back then, none of the 140 households in Hirmathla had toilets. As a coy bride, she often wondered how different life in her village and Hirmathla was despite the two not being located too far. Everyone in Hirmathla defecated out in the open, in the fields; women went out before sunrise or after sunset. The 14-year-old Vijay Laxmi found it repulsive; she didn’t want to live through the shameful experience every day of her life.
Like the lead protagonist in the popular Bollywood movie on the issue of problem of open defecation, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Vijay Laxmi admitted she always wanted to prolong her sojourns to her parents’ home so that she could avoid having to go to defecate in the fields at night in Hirmathla. Her tentative demands for building a toilet at home evoked laughter and ridicule. Her well-meaning husband, Sansar Chand, even thought of her as a demanding spouse. When she suggested her father to put in a word, he sympathised with her and yet told her she should get used to living like the others there. “Girls are supposed to adapt to the ways of their husbands’ homes,” Vijay Laxmi recalls her father saying. When she tried to coax her husband, who worked in an office in Sohna, to build a toilet, he was amused and thought she was throwing tantrums. After all, no one in the village had ever complained about relieving themselves under the skies! “Perhaps I should have been more assertive,” she now wonders.
But Vijay Laxmi’s life was to take a turn for the better soon – when she was pregnant with her first child. As the pregnancy advanced, she would get more uncomfortable walking long distances to defecate in the open. One day, while she was squatting in a field in the early hours, a village elder passed by. She felt so ashamed that she rushed home in a huff without finishing; so shocked was she that she didn’t pass stools for 25 days. The boy she delivered was born with an abnormally large head and frail limbs. Doctors said the child may have suffered because of her induced constipation: a situation where the mind tricks the body into feeling it does not need to defecate. The family was crestfallen: had they had a toilet, perhaps the child would have been born healthy. Still, it took a year for Sansar Chand to build a toilet. Theirs became the only house with a flush latrine.
“It took years of medication and visits to doctors before our son finally recovered,” recalls Vijay Laxmi, who later gave birth to two girls. Her son today works in a bank and daughters are undergraduate students at the government college, Nuh.
Vijay Laxmi’s neighbour Poonam is the pradhan (village head) and the first rebel against open defecation. Hailed as a revolutionary for her extraordinary courage in sending an ultimatum to her husband’s family to build a toilet or lose her forever, Poonam has become a role model for women in the village.
Shakuntala, her mother-in-law, who used to accompany Poonam for the midnight and post-midnight outings to the outskirts of the village, says, “Sometimes, I would also take her to Vijay Laxmi’s toilet. However, I could see she was uneasy and upset.” One day, when she went to visit her parents, Poonam took a hard decision: she would go back to her matrimonial home only after they build a toilet. Shakuntala says this put the family in a great dilemma: how could we have tulsi (considered holy) and the toilet (considered impure) in the same compound. This belief has held back many people from building toilets inside their houses and given rise to open defecation for centuries. Finally, the family had to relent. Now, women in the village openly speak of their ordeal – slipping in the muddy fields and suffering fractures and injuries, being heckled and shamed by young boys riding by on motorbikes, being bitten by snakes and scorpions.
Six years ago, Naseem Ahmed from NGO Sulabh International Service Organisation had landed in the village to check the feasibility of building toilets for all. His organisation has taken up the responsibility of making 175 villages in the state open defecation free. Interestingly, though Naseem found that villagers were aware of the advantages of having a toilet in each home, they were reluctant to make the change. “My job wasn’t easy,” says Naseem, sitting in a small office in the village.
Having known their stories, he first approached Poonam and Vijay Laxmi for help; they were willing to spread the word about cleanliness and became brand ambassadors of cleanliness. Of the first four toilets Sulabh built, three were for women. “While I was doing the base survey in the village, I found that for women, going out for defecation was part of their multitasking routine and therefore difficult; while men combined it with their morning walk and would just sit anywhere. If a woman returned home late, she would be scolded and suspected of having an affair – overall it was a very male-dominated environment and women were suffering.”
As we walk through the clean-paved streets of Hirmathla with Poonam and Vijaya Laxmi – both covering their faces to show respect to the menfolk in the village – they talk about how building toilets has brought izzat (honour) for women too.
Naseem said the villagers were keenly observing the four families that had built toilets. “They saw a marked change in their lifestyles – children would reach school in time; womenfolk looked happy and confident. Soon, the word spread and everyone wanted a toilet. The NGO built toilets for all by 2014 but continues to stay put in the village. “The challenge lies in inculcating the habit of toilet-going among the people and bringing in a permanent behavioural change among the people,” says Naseem. Sulabh maintains toilets for one year after constructing these. “If we leave it to the villagers, half of the toilets would be abandoned in case there is a problem.”
Monday, 28 August 2017 | Prashant Tewari
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a great humanist and social reformer of contemporary India. To the weaker sections of society especially, his is the compassionate face of a paternal redeemer. He has the vision of a philosopher and the undying zeal of a missionary. He is an icon of sanitation and social reform who has made a difference in the lives of millions of people. Dr. Pathak will be remembered in history for his innovative strides in the field of sanitation as well as social reform. With his efforts erstwhile untouchables have been allowed by the society to intermingle with them and to live on par, dining with them and being allowed to offer prayers in the temples. He has created a new culture which embraces the poor and extols the dignity of labour. The Swachh Bharat campaign of the present government was adopted by Dr Pathak in 1968 wherein he has tirelessly worked for years to bring about realistic change and awareness for clean India concept. Padma Bhushan Dr Bindeshwar Pathak in conversation with Prashant Tewari Editor-in-Chief of Opinion Express narrates his life experience of this eventful journey.
Q: Clean India Green India campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is perhaps the most ambitious campaign launched in post Independent India. You are a salient warrior of clean India campaign, how do you foresee your journey since you started the work?
Ans. To end the practice of manual cleaning of human faeces by the untouchables and to stop defecation in the open, I started my work way back in 1968. In those days it was a cultural taboo to talk about toilets and untouchables; wherever I would go, people would avoid talking about these subjects. They would tell me to have tea first and then start a talk about toilets. I used to say, “It would take some time to make the tea and meanwhile we can start our conversation.” To this, they would reply, “When we would sip the tea after talking about toilet, don’t you think we will also get a taste of the excreta in the mouth? In other words, there was no awareness, let alone priority, in those days about clean India or toilets both in urban and rural India. In those days, no house had a toilet in rural areas and so people used to go outside for defecation. The women had to suffer the most. They had to go out for relieving themselves before sunrise or after sunset. In darkness they used to face sometimes snake or scorpion bite or get attacked by stray animals and humans. Girls did not go to schools because of lack of toilets. Children used to die because of diarrhoea, dysentery, etc. My own sister’s son died because of diarrhoea while being taken to a hospital. In urban areas, more than 85% houses had bucket toilets that had to be cleaned up by the untouchables. There was no public toilet at public places and if there was one that was so horribly dirty that nobody will go inside the toilet.
So I invented a technology and developed a methodology to end this practice and make India environmentally clean. In those days, people were more or less unaware about the importance of good sanitation. Although different Prime Ministers and ministers of those days would sometimes talk about the subject, but after Mahatma Gandhi the credit goes to Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for giving Clean India Campaign a national importance and national priority. I feel that after the intervention by the present Prime Minister of India, my journey and my mission that started five decades ago is now being realized, and now the people, especially the girls and women, have become aware of the importance of toilets and sanitation.
Q: In a caste ridden hierarchy of Indian society, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak pioneered clean India campaign, how difficult was the decision to pursue this agenda as your career?
When I started working for the untouchables, my task seemed to be formidable. My father was sad; the fellow Brahmins were against me; my father-in-law was so angry with me that he said, “I do not want to see your face. I want to marry my daughter to somebody else.” It was very difficult for me as I came from a Brahmin family. I had no money to pursue my career. I had to sell the ornaments of my wife and some pieces of land that I owned, I remained starved for many nights, slept on the platform because I had no money. I used to walk barefoot in the scorching heat. In a nutshell, my journey was very hard; it was very hard to pursue my career. But only a determined person can bring about a change and improve a bad situation.
It was also difficult to get the support from the Government to start this work. Altogether it was very difficult and challenging to pursue the career I had chosen for myself.
Q: Do you feel vindicated after getting laurels from various parts of the world?
Yes, I feel so because in my lifetime the subject of sanitation has been recognized.
The toilet technology invented by me has been featured by the BBC Horizons as one of the five unique inventions of the world. In 1996 at Istanbul, the UN-Habitat declared this technology as a Global Urban Best Practice. The Sulabh technology also got the Dubai International Award for ‘Best Practices for Improving the Living Environment’ by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements. In 2003 UNDP has also adopted Sulabh technology.
I also received the honour of Padma Bhushan from the Government of India. But what makes me really happy is that the subject of sanitation has been recognized throughout the world and the fact that the sanitation technologies that I have invented could help solve the problems of 2.4 billion people on the planet who have no access to toilets. I feel that my ideas and my work have been vindicated.
Q: First time in India, your work is supplemented by government via Swachh Bharat Mission wherein there is a huge spike in budgetary allocation by the government. There is a huge awareness campaign undertaken by Central government & various state governments to bring perceptional change in the outlook of citizens. You are happy with the progression made in this regard?
I am happy with the development of the Swachh Bharat Mission. The only suggestion is that for building the toilets, apart from Rs. 12,000 as subsidy, there should be the provision of loans up to Rs. 50,000 so that the people can build good quality and enduring toilets of their choice. In these days it is simply not possible to build a good quality and durable toilet with Rs. 12,000.
Q: What are the latest plans of Sulabh International keeping in view the huge gap in demand and supply exists in India for proper sanitation, clean water and garbage disposal? Your organisation is planning to sync activities with technology?
We have a plan to train one person in every village (there are 6.46 lakh villages in India) to work as a motivator and change maker. These change makers will go house to house, motivate, educate, train people and get implemented the toilets in the house if the beneficiaries desire so and also follow-up for one year so that toilets could be properly functional. We are trying to reach out to different avenues for generating the amount needed for training the people.
In the water sector, we have started cleaning water in arsenic-affected areas in order to provide safe and potable water to the people so that they should be free from arsenic diseases. We have done this in the five villages of West Bengal and our water plants are functioning very well. We want to extend this technology in other parts of the country so that we can solve the water-related problems.
There are many other agencies who are working on the garbage disposal projects. Sulabh International is coordinating with government and non government agencies for clean India mission.
Published: 15:14 August 24, 2017
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak’s pioneering efforts to improve sanitation and upgrade the environment in India are making a huge impact
“I am the son of the son of Mahatma Gandhi, but Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is the son of Gandhi’s soul,” said Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, acknowledging the exemplary work of Dr Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, the largest non-profit organisation in India.
Truly, while people only try to follow the lifestyle of Gandhi, Dr Pathak has executed his philosophy and thoughts. Treating sanitation as his mission and human development as his goal, Dr Pathak says, “Sanitation is a mission. It is not like constructing a bridge or a road. I am happy that in my lifetime, I am able to fulfil Gandhi’s dream of eradicating scavenging and improving the living conditions of scavengers.”
“I made ideas the basis of my movement, without thinking of gains in return,” he says with as much simplicity as the name he chose for his organisation – Sulabh (meaning ‘simple’). While the Indian government decided to take up the ambitious project of freeing the country from open defecation only a couple of years ago, Dr Pathak had set on the mission five decades back. Nevertheless, he is extremely delighted over the fact that an official beginning has been made.
The internationally recognised sanitation pioneer says, “There had been very little interest or investment in this sector, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed it all. He is the first leader who not only talked about toilets from the ramparts of the Red Fort, but also continues discussing the issue with foreign dignitaries. He has forced the country people to understand that unless we address this issue, we will not become a developed country. It’s time we made India clean and standout in the row of civilised, cultured and clean nations.”
As toilets became the buzzword and the prime minister spearheaded the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Campaign), Dr Pathak’s mission got a boost. He was appointed Brand Ambassador for Swachh Rail Mission of the Indian Railways. “We have cleaned over 800 railway stations and carry out drives, including showing films on garbage collection and cleanliness to people living in towns and villages,” Dr Pathak says.
Even as Modi announced his historic resolve to construct 120 million toilets by 2019, Dr Pathak is geared to see it become a success. “We are motivating, implementing and following it up by training one person each in the 643,000 villages across the country. So, if each person is able to get 20 toilets built every month in his village, we could construct about 150 million toilets – surpassing the target. While over 80 reputed companies are already contributing towards the cause, if 20 million wealthy NRIs, throughout the world, also contribute for only five to six toilets each, the situation could change even sooner. In association with the Maharashtra state government, we are constructing the world’s largest toilet complex in Pandharpur, Solapur district,” the promoter of sanitation, informs.
Impressed by prime minister’s initiatives, Dr Pathak has written a coffee table book, ‘The Making of a Legend’ that describes Modi’s accomplishments. The book was released recently by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Samaj chief Mohan Bhagwat in the presence of president of the Bharatiya Janata Party Amit Shah, in New Delhi.
Life and struggles
Born into a wealthy family in Bihar, Dr Pathak’s life is full of interesting incidents. He says, “Since ancient times, manual scavenging existed in India. It is the inhuman and unhygienic practice. Even as a child, I abhorred the injustices [such a practice leads to in society].”
He talks of the hue and cry raised when one day, he touched a Dalit woman. “After all these years, I am still unable to forget the hue and cry raised by my grandmother. Immediately, a priest was summoned to purify me. And at his behest, This was my first brush with the issue of untouchability.”
The seed of revolution was sown. On growing up, Dr Pathak, who had studied sociology, believed that to work for a community, it was important to build a rapport with the people of that community. He decided to live in a scavengers’ colony in Bettiah town in Bihar to have first-hand experience of the life of a scavenger. Once there, he stayed put for three months, vowing to fulfil Gandhi’s dream of relieving these people from their subhuman and hazardous occupation.
Sulabh was formed in 1970. Dr Pathak invented and developed many designs of twin-pit pour flush toilets that were both hygienically and technically appropriate and affordable. He had started the work of conversion of bucket toilets into Sulabh toilets in Patna. And soon the impact of the innovations spread to other parts of the country.
The 74-year-old, champion of the underprivileged people is credited with setting up, without any background in science and technology, the first biogas plant in Patna, Bihar, in 1982 – after about six years of research. This technology too has expanded and is used in over 25 states and union territories in India.
Sulabh has constructed 1.5 million household toilets. The number of government toilets constructed based on Sulabh design is 54 million. The NGO has made 640 towns scavenging free and constructed 8,500 toilet blocks. It has paved the way for the biggest sanitation wave in the world. Many of its approaches have been adopted in other countries and Sulabh is actively involved in extending its work in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China and African countries.
Dr Pathak’s invention, “wealth from waste” is a highly successful initiative. In the Sulabh two-pit ecological compost, converts waste into bio-fertiliser, which is free from pathogens, as it contains a miniscule of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. It can be used to enhance the productivity of the soil for agriculture and horticulture purposes and produces biogas that can be used for lighting, cooking and generating electricity.
Recognizing this, BBC Horizon, the documentary television series that covers science and philosophy, declared Sulabh technologies as one of the five unique inventions of the world. The Economistincluded Dr Pathak in its Global Diversity List of 50 top world personalities.
Making a qualitative change in the lives of arsenic-affected people of certain regions in West Bengal, Sulabh also set up a purified water plant, which treats water collected from a deep man-made pond. Developed in association with French NGO 1001 Fontaines, it produces thousands of litres of potable water called Sulabh Jal. Earlier, people residing in the region suffered from severe skin allergies and fatal diseases caused by arsenic poison in ground water pumped from the wells.
In the process of his efforts, this quiet game-changer has altered people’s mind sets. “There was a time when I approached think-tanks in government set-ups, who insisted I first have tea before talking about sanitation, as if the tea would be unpalatable when speaking of such matters. But now, both national and international leaders visit Sulabh headquarters in New Delhi’s Mahavir Enclave and unhesitatingly discuss the subject while having meals,” Dr Pathak laughs.
The sociologist has not only awakened the conscience of the people of the country towards dalits, by bringing them into the mainstream of society, but has also contributed to several other causes, including running a school for children of weaker sections of society in Delhi and setting up ashrams for the widows of Varanasi, Vrindavan and Uttarakhand.
Widely travelled, Dr Pathak says, “The two aspects that I appreciate in people all over the world ar punctuality and cleanliness. India needs to pay heed to both.”
He has received over 90 awards and numerous citations and fellowships. These include: the Padma Bhushan, New Delhi (1991), The International Saint Francis Prize, Italy (1992), Limca Book of Records, Man of the Year, New Delhi (1995), Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment (2000), Global 500 Scroll of Honour by UN-Habitat, Brazil (2003), Stockholm Water Prize (2009), Hall of Fame Award by World Toilet Organisation at World Toilet Summit, China (2008) and the Humanitarian Award of the New York Global Leaders Dialogue (2016).
Nilima Pathak is a journalist based in New Delhi.
Rakesh Kumar / August 19, 2017
Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, does not need any introduction. A Padma Bhushan awardee, Pathak is an Indian icon in the field of sanitation and social reforms that have made a difference to the lives of millions of people.
He started a struggle for toilets in 1968, when open defecation was part of one’s culture. Toilets were nowhere to be seen ~ not even in the houses of the affluent. He then came up with his valuable innovation ~ two-pit pour-flush toilet, popularly known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya System. Pathak has also developed a technology for complete recycling and reuse of human excreta from public toilets.
His ingenious technology is quite affordable and culturally acceptable. It was declared one of the Global Best Practices by UN-HABITAT/UNCHS (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements) and recognised and approved by various other national and international agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, UNEP and WSSCC.
So far, Pathak has constructed more than 7,500 public toilets in slums and at public, religious and tourist places, which have been used by around 10 million people. His relentless efforts were appreciated not only in India but also around the world, fetching him several awards and laurels.
Last year, the Mayor of New York (Bill De Blasio) declared 14 April as Dr Bindeshwar Pathak Day. In a candid interaction, Pathak spoke about his work to RAKESH KUMAR.
Q: You belong to an affluent family from the upper caste. What made you to jump into this “dirty” work?
A: Actually it was circumstances. When I was a child a lady used to visit our house. Once she left, my grandmother would sprinkle water wherever she had stood. She was called an “untouchable”. Out of curiosity, one day I touched her to see what happens. My grandmother saw me touching her. She was furious and called a Pandit to purify me.
He suggested keeping me isolated from everyone in a room. However, my mother objected and sought another solution. Then the Pandit suggested feeding me cow dung and urine. During my job with the Gandhi Centenary Celebration Committee, I had to spend three months with “untouchables” in Bettiah town.
Then I came to know about the plight of these people. Two incidents occurred: First, a young bride was forced into manual scavenging. And when I pleaded on her behalf I was told that if she did not do scavenging she would not be able to earn anything. The second incident was related to a young boy being gored by a bull and the crowd gathering to help him. When someone among the crowd said he was an “untouchable” everyone withdrew.
He died on the way to hospital. These experiences and incidents made me firm in my mission to see that untouchability is (removed) and the obnoxious practice of defecating in the open is eliminated. Another reason was that in my village there was no toilet. Even my house, which was comparatively bigger, had no toilets. Only in school, there was a bucket toilet which used to be cleaned by the “untouchables”.
Q: What is your technology and how is it helpful for “untouchables”?
A: I always try to fulfill the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. Once he said that till they (“untouchables”) do some clean work, nobody will make friends with them. In our two-pit technology, one doesn’t require manual cleaning. We have converted many bucket toilets to two-pit toilets to relive the scavenger from the demeaning practice. Not only this we have installed 1.5 million toilets in homes and 8,000 public toilets all over the country.
Q: What were the hardships you faced during the initial days of your movement?
A: Money and execution of idea were the major problems. After developing the technology, I went to meet several government representatives of Bihar. I was refused many a time. I applied for some grants (Rs 17,000) from the Union government, and my file kept moving here and there. I had no money, I had to sell ornaments and a piece of land. One fine day, a government official asked me to convert all the government bucket toilets into Sulabh Toilets. From then I never looked back.
Q: It has been more than four decades that you have been fighting this menace. Now where do you find yourself?
A: I am very happy. Earlier toilet was a private thing, but now the scenario has changed totally. The issue, which was the most neglected, has become the most talked about. The Prime Minister speaks about toilets from the Red Fort and there is a film also. What more does one need?
Q: Isn’t it shameful for India that even after 70 years of Independence we are still talking about toilets?
A: Yes I agree…The Union government should have adopted Sulabh models of toilets, which is now widely accepted. All the 1.5 million toilets we have made so far, you will never hear they are lying vacant or unused. If I were part of government, this menace would have finished in India long ago. I suggested to the Union government that in each of the six lakh villages, they must train one person who should be made responsible for making toilets and taking care of them. If he makes 20 toilets a month, there will be 240 in a year. This is how, in all the 6 lakh villages, there will be around 15 crore toilets. And we need only 12 crore. This is how it can be done in just one year.
Q: Where do you think we are lacking?
A: At many places…One can’t make a good toilet in Rs 12,000. I suggest the Union government give them Rs 12,000 and the people put in the rest of the money. Then they can make the toilet as per their desire.
Q: Railways is the biggest platform to promote open defecation? What is your take on it?
A: A committee was set up in 2008 for railways. Everyone suggested something. Some suggested installing biotech toilets, but I asked them to use detachable containers. The container can be installed beneath the train’s coaches, where the waste can be collected and then emptied at junction stations and carried to a nearby biogas plant. The biogas can be used for purposes of lighting the railway yard or houses nearby. This is the best option until you get better technology.
Q: You have become the brand ambassador for Railway cleanliness but the CAG report is silent. Your take on this.
A: Suresh Prabhu is a good man, and he understands my work. Therefore, he made me the brand ambassador. As the work was given to me, I cleaned 800 railway stations. But now they will have to carry it forward.
Q: Are you going to join politics?
A: I am okay for the Rajya Sabha if someone nominates me
Fri, Aug 18 2017
New Delhi: Social service organisation Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak felicitates Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi on Aug 18, 2017.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives the book – “Narendra Modi: The Making of A Legend” written on him by social service organisation Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak at the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi on Aug 18, 2017.
Watching the trailer of Akshay Kumar’s new film, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, one was reminded of stories about this unhealthy practice that women in my family had to go through.
BOLLYWOOD Updated: Aug 10, 2017 09:10 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
When I first saw the trailer of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, I marvelled at how an issue like open defecation could become the subject of a Bollywood romance.
The Hindi film industry has always tried to play an important role on matters of social reform and change. If I grew up on a routine dose of films like Bimal Roy’s Sujata, which adroitly took on the issue of casteism, I also came to appreciate V Shantaram’s works like Do Aankhen Baarah Haath – a cinematic bid at ensuring jail reforms. Through stories, song-and-dance sequences and lilting melodies, these films gently nudged us to bring in change.
Who can forget Raj Kapoor’s socially relevant films of the 1950s, often written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and VP Sathe? That was then…
When I recently watched the trailer of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, a remake of hit Tamil comedy Kalyana Samayal Saadham, I couldn’t help but smile at how wonderfully it had tackled a serious issue such as erectile dysfunction. A couple of years ago, Vicky Donor bravely dealt with sperm donation while having us in splits at the same time.
Even though social customs such caste, sati and window remarriage were passionately debated in the past, nobody wanted to talk about sex, personal hygiene and even health concerns. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.
These were pretty much my sentiments when I saw the first trailer of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Its lead actor, Akshay Kumar, deserves a pat on the back for bringing a social taboo out in the open and forcing people to think. To be fair, he has been doing this for a while now – he even approaches patriotism through the prism of self-reflection and change rather than enemy-bashing.
Watching that scene from the trailer where a woman beckons Bhumi Pednekar to join the ‘lota party’ who are waiting for her ‘belcome’ (welcome) brought back memories of the stories I heard growing up. One of them was about my mother, of course.
It was the late 1960s. My mom had been married for four years. A wedding at my paternal aunt’s ancestral village forced everybody to relocate there for a while.
My uncle was a prosperous zamindar. His house was a large and spacious one, quite unlike my grandfather’s cloistered place in Sambalpur – my ancestral hometown in Odisha. As it was their first function, everybody was in attendance.
My uncle, of course, played the perfect host without bothering to note that his home did not have toilets. No household in the village – rich or poor – had one, and even the residents’ century-old association with the British did not succeed in changing that. In fact, having a toilet in the home was thought to be polluting. You had to go the fields to perform this “unclean” act.
Matters of privacy were the least of their concerns. The fact that it could be particularly problematic for women never really crossed their minds. It didn’t matter that not everybody feels the urge to defecate in the morning. An accidental snake or insect bite? You must be kidding!
My mother was married into a family of humble means, but her own family was better off. My maternal grandfather’s home had an Indian-style toilet since the time it was built back in early 1950s. Growing up, mom never faced such issues. But married life threw up a whole new challenge.
Back in the village, a day before the wedding, mom was jolted out of sleep by my aunt to join her in the fields. She was mortified to know the reason, but found herself unable to refuse. So, out they went into the darkness with a lantern and a ‘lota’. The fields were empty with not a soul in sight, and the stillness of the dark morning seemed to ensure some privacy. Cold comfort – mom refused to join in, choosing to stand at a distance. My aunt, however, was not encumbered by any such qualm. She was used to the routine, having been married into this milieu at the tender age of 14.
Those two days were the most miserable in my mom’s life; she ate little and drank next to nothing. It was only when she returned home, back to familiar surroundings, that she finally started breathing easy.
A maternal aunt of mine also faced a similar situation. Married off at the age of fifteen in the mid 1950s, she was packed off to the family’s ancestral village. My uncle, an irrigation engineer, was posted in far-flung places where family accommodation was not allowed. Stuck in a new place all by herself, she was clearly uncomfortable in her surroundings.
But while other matters could eventually be tackled in the long run, what she simply couldn’t adjust to was the custom of open defecation – a norm in the village. Distraught, she cried her heart out during her next visit to her parents’ place. Worried for his daughter’s well-being, my grandfather had a word with her in-laws – after which she stayed in their Cuttack home (which had all the necessary arrangements). In time, a toilet was constructed at their village home.
Years later, while doing a story on Dr Bindeshwar Pathak – founder of the Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement – I visited his office in Delhi. During a tour of the premises, he showed me a model of their ‘cheap and easy-to-install’ Indian toilet that consumed less water as well. Dr Pathak had come up with this solution while dealing with that scourge called manual scavenging, which – unfortunately – is still prevalent in India.
In the process, I realised that open defecation is still in practice because of an age-old habit. In fact, a recent survey by Quality Council of India (QCI) conducted in 4626 villages across India found only 62.54% households have access to toilets – the number in Bihar was 30% while Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand followed at 37%. The situation in parts of urban India is no different where open defecation is still seen where people don’t have access to a toilet.
It’s time the call against it became a mass movement. Films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha should be a move in the right direction.
मथुरा (भाषा)। वृन्दावन एवं वाराणसी के आश्रमों में विधवा एवं परित्यक्त जीवन बिता रहीं महिलाओं ने रक्षाबंधन के पावन पर्व पर एक बार फिर प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी के लिए अपने हाथों से बनाकर 1500 राखियां भेजी हैं।
इसके लिए वृन्दावन के तकरीबन पांच सदी पुराने ठा. गोपीनाथ मंदिर में एक विशेष कार्यक्रम का आयोजन कर गाते-बजाते इन राखियों को मिठाई की टोकरियों के साथ पैक किया गया। इस कार्यक्रम का आयोजन वर्ष 2012 से वृन्दावन, वाराणसी एवं उत्तराखण्ड की 1000 विधवाओं की देखभाल कर रहे गैर सरकारी संगठन ‘सुलभ इण्टरनेशनल ‘ ने किया था।
सुलभ इण्टरनेशनल के संस्थापक डा. बिन्देश्वर पाठक को अपना भाई मानने वाली इन विधवा महिलाओं ने राखी बांधकर सदियों से चली आ रही कुप्रथा को तोड़कर खुशी-खुशी रक्षाबंधन का त्यौहार मनाया। इस बार यह राखियां बनाने में वृन्दावन के ‘मीरा सहभागिनी ‘ आश्रम में निवास करने वाली विधवाओं ने खासा योगदान किया।
संस्था के मीडिया सलाहकार मदन झा ने बताया, ‘सोमवार को भाई-बहन के अमिट प्रेम व त्याग के त्योहार के अवसर पर इनमें से 10 महिलाएं दिल्ली में प्रधानमंत्री आवास पर पहुंचकर नरेंद्र मोदी को राखी बांधेगी तथा मिठाई भेंट करेंगी। ‘
प्रधानमंत्री को राखी बांधने के लिए एक बच्चे के समान उत्साहित मनु घोष (94 वर्ष) ने प्रधानमंत्री का फोटो लगी राखी दिखाते हुए कहा, ‘मैंने भी स्वयं अपने हाथों से उनके लिए राखी बनाई है और मैं उनको यह राखी बांधने के बेहद बेताब हूं। वे समाज के हम जैसे निर्बल वर्गों की बेहतरी के लिए काम कर रहे हैं। ‘
संस्था की उपाध्यक्ष विनीता वर्मा ने बताया, ‘सुलभ वर्ष 2012 से ही उच्चतम न्यायालय के निर्देशानुसार इन महिलाओं की देखभाल विभिन्न प्रकार से कर रहा है। ‘ उन्होंने बताया, ‘प्रधानमंत्री कार्यालय से हरी झण्डी मिलते ही 10 विधवा महिलाओं एवं सामाजिक कार्यकर्ताओं का दल दिल्ली रवाना हो जाएगा। ‘
Source : https://www.gaonconnection.com/desh/mathura-vrindavan-varanasi-widows-ashram-prime-minister-narendra-modi-rakhi-gopinath-temple-sulabh-international-bindeshwar-pathak-meera-sahabhagini-widow-ashram-madan-jha-manu-ghosh-vinita-verma-old-age-home-raksha-bandhan-raksha-bandhan-2017
NEWS WORLD INDIA / August 7 , 2017
On the occasion of ‘Raksha Bandhan’ women and children from various segments of society called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his official residence and tied ‘rakhi’ on his wrist.
The Prime Minister, on Monday morning tweeted, “On the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan, congratulations to the nation. Greetings on Raksha Bandhan.”
रक्षाबंधन के पावन पर्व पर देशवासियों को बहुत-बहुत बधाई। Greetings on Raksha Bandhan.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 7, 2017
While the Prime Minister celebrated the festival with the widows of Vrindavan, various children and women also went to Narendra Modi’s residence to tie him rakhis. The PM also met the schoolchildren at his office and celebrate Raksha Bandhan. He then blessed the children and conveyed his best wishes to everyone on the occasion.