By Rajiv Sharma
When BSP leader Mayawati speaks, mercury shoots up. Rarely I found her in a calm mood. In India you will find her as if she is the only ‘shubhchintak’(well wisher) of “Dalits”. But recently, I met a person who stunned with the work he has done for the Dalits, but still, his work is not recognised by the Indian Government. His name is Dr.Bindeshwar Pathak. The man behind the ‘Sulabh Sanitation Movement’.
I met Dr. Pathak at the Press Club of India’s “Meet the Press” programme. Despite he being a Brahmin by caste lakhs of dalit families are benefitting by his work. He is like God Father for them. The noted writer Dr. Mulk Raj Anand said about Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak–”What Abraham Lincoln did for Blacks in America, He has done for scavengers in India. Both are great redeemers.” The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Prof Rajmohan Gandhi, said about him–”I am the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi but Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is son of his soul. If we were to go to meet Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he would first greet Dr. Pathak for the noble work that he is doing and then greet me.Dr. Pathak has restored human rights and dignity to people engaged in the manual cleaning of human excreta which they carried as head-load.”
At the different international forums Dr. Pathak work has been recognised with great honour. Recently his name was nominated for ‘The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate 2009’. But I am amazed no “Padamshree” or “Padamvibhushna” announced for this 66 years old ‘Dalit Massiah’.
Besides establishing neat and clean toilet complexes and liberating scavengers, Dr Pathak has set up a number of vocational training institutes throughout the country. These centres give training to the downtrodden in various courses like computers, typing, electrical trade, woodcraft, leathercraft, diesel and petrol engineering, motor driving etc. Sulabh has also set up an English medium school for the children of scavengers.
After visiting Madame Tussaud’s Museum in England, Dr Pathak set up a Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, which is one of its kind in the world. The objective of the museum is to educate students about the history of toilets and to help sanitation experts learn from the past in order to resolve the present problems.
- May 2009, South Asia Times