Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a non-profit voluntary social organisation founded in 1970 by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, is dedicated to Gandhian ideology of emancipation of scavengers. Sulabh has been working for the removal of untouchability and social discrimination against scavengers, a section of Indian society condemned to clean and carry human excreta manually. Sulabh is noted for achieving success in the field of cost-effective sanitation, liberation of scavengers, social transformation of society, prevention of environmental pollution and development of non-conventional sources of energy.

Environmental friendly two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet known as Sulabh Shauchalaya that is socially acceptable, economically affordable, technologically appropriate and does not require scavengers to clean the pits and implemented in more than 1.2 million houses all over India that has helped liberate over a million scavengers.

Construction and maintenance of public toilets at public places and in slums on ‘pay & use basis’ is a landmark of Sulabh in the field of sanitation. So far it has constructed and is or maintaining over 8000 such public toilets in India and has constructed 200 biogas plants all over the country. Production of biogas from public toilets and recycling and reuse of effluent through simple and convenient method is the major breakthrough in the field of sanitation and community health.

Thumbnail portrait of Sulabh

With its avowed objective of restoring human rights and dignity to scavengers by freeing them from the inhuman practice of manually cleaning and carrying human excreta, the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation was born in March 1970. Today, over three decades later, the organisation is one of the best-known NGOs working in the sanitation sector, both nationally and internationally.

Today it is not merely the name of an NGO; it is a movement. Working with a workforce of over 50,000 volunteers in 26 states and 4 union territories, In 551 districts and 1733 towns of India, Sulabh has also been invited to help out in neighbouring countries like, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has also taken up ma n y programmes in collaboration with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, Nairobi, and the International Water and Sanitation Centre, Loughborough University of Technology, UK, through the Water Engineering and Development Centre.

The Sulabh has been also closely working in collaboration with national agencies like the NBO, CBRI, HUDCO, and Ministries of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Social Justice and Empowerment, Rural Development, Government of India and All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata. The Sulabh’s two-pit pour-flush toilet technology innovatively designed and modified over the years, has been evaluated by many international agencies, like the UNDP/World Bank, UNICEF and WHO and recommended for global replication, especially in the developing countries. In addition, agencies like the ODA (Overseas Development Agency of the British Government), BORDA, SIDA (the Danish International Development Agency) and EEC (European Economic Community) have collaborated with the Sulabh.

The Sulabh’s achievements are noteworthy: it has been able to restore human rights and dignity to more than a million scavengers, set up about 11 Lakh household toilets and 7500 community toilet blocks, constructed over 190 human-excreta-based biogas plants and made 640 towns scavenging-free. The sanitation facilities created by the Sulabh are used by over 10 million people everyday.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the Founder of the Sulabh Movement, has been honoured nationally and internationally for his exemplary work. Among the awards he has received are the Padma Bhushan in 1991, the International Saint Francis Prize for the Environment-“Canticle of All Creatures”- in 1992, the Bombay Citizen’s Award in 1992, the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award in 1994, the Babu Jagjivan Ram Award for abolishing scavenging in 1997, and the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Award in 2003.