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By Ritwik Mukherjee Jan 12 2016

Swachh Bharat or CSR Act is throwing up huge opportunities for social development organisations, says Bindeshwar Pathak


He believes that toilet is a tool for social change and with this view, built 1.3 million household toilets, over 8000 community toilet blocks and made more than 640 towns scavenging free over the last four and half decade through his Sulabh International Social Service Organisation. Besides, more than 54 million government toilets have been constructed based on Sulabh design. Sociologist, social activist, and founder of Sulabh, Bindeshwar Pathak has received a number of national and international recognitions, including the Stockholm Water Prize in 2009. Speaking to Ritwik Mukherjee of FC, Pathak explains how Swachh Bharat or CSR Act is throwing up huge opportunities for social development organisations. Excerpt:

What is the basic motto of Sulabh with which it was started?It was to uphold and honour human rights and dignity. We wanted to addr­ess the issue of untouchables and liberate them. Sc­avenging is the practice of manual clea­ning of human excreta from service/dry latrines. As a result of this unhygienic and unscientific system, people were falling ill and eventually dying. Women were suffering the most. Society never accepted them as one of us. Our idea was to offer skills-based training to wom­en manual scavengers to ta­ke up alternative sources of livelihood and help them ga­in proper place in society.

After so many years down the line what are the guiding principles that drive you?

Idea of Sulabh was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. He w­anted to clean India. Now our prime minister Narendra Modi has taken up this cause. Now Sulabh is serving people for humanity and mankind. We have changed the scenario of India. We have transformed the life of untouchables.

How do you get projects? Do you identify and then take it forward?

I invented the technology and popularised that by Sulabh Complex. It did not only stop defecation in public but made a difference in respect of the whole sanitation scenario in India. In the initial years, when I gave the idea to the Bihar governm­ent, I got positive response from them regarding the use of this technology. They also offered loan and subsidy for translating our idea into action. In 1974 Bihar appointed Sulabh. Now different st­ates, local bodies and private sector agencies approach us to implement the projects.

How does Sulabh stand out from other not-for-pr­ofit-social organisations?

I cannot say about the other NGOs. But Sulabh has a mission, vision, commitme­nt, capability and efficiency blended with honesty, inte­grity, and ethics. People believe Sulabh. It is accepted throughout the country. So I believe any other NGO wor­king like this will also be accepted by people.

How do you see India’s social sectors maturing over the years?

Earlier the government had some funds for charity and welfare activities and initiatives. But then it started fal­ling. The Centre has now come up with these norms th­at the corporate sector would have to offer at least 2 per cent of the profits for the welfare and charity progra­mmes. So the amount is on the rise and moreover, people are taking increasing interest in such initiatives.

Going forward how do you like to see Sulabh 3 years down the line?

The prime minister of India has set a target to end the practice of defecation in open by 2019. Ne­arly 120 million houses in the country do not have any toilet. So the target is huge and that has to be done by 3 years. We have 676 districts, 5924 blocks, more than 2 lakh panchayats and 640,000 villages in the country. This is one of the major mottos of Sulabh. We will play our part in this in a big way across the country.

I would also like to see inclusion of sanitation as a course in the school syllabus to create better awareness and culture of sanitation and I would like to see Sulabh playing an important role in that.

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