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Friday, October 2, 2009

Sulabh Toilets- a great innovation by Dr. Pathak

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Suppose you are in the midst of a road caught in a traffic jam and you feel an urgent need of relieving yourself from number one or number two problem with your body and there is no toilet nearby, what can you do? Not a matter of joke. Just think and try to feel the problem.

I work in an institution which is located on one side of a busy road joining the main market of the city. If some one, man or woman wants to purchase anything important he or she prefers to move through the same road to reach to the main market.

In our institution, there are two lavatories – one common for gents having a capacity of 8 to 10, stinking all the time due to poor drainage and the other, for ladies with only two compartments out of which one remains always locked and is meant for the head of the institution who is a lady, and the other remains always open meant for other ladies. Peons and other staff are seen availing this facility after all the other have gone after filling the time of departure in the daily attendance register.

So, along this busy road which passes through the institution I work in, a number of ladies use to go up and down for their important purchases. Some of them occasionally enter the gate gazing towards some of us with some purpose. Some appear to be searching something. The gate keeper who use to have less meaning of the gate for him after the closing hour, appear to be interested in them and never neglects them. Soon after he knows the purpose, he points towards the gents’ lavatory. The lady in need if accompanied with some other one employs her at the gate and moves inside. After some time she is seen coming back with deformed face and starts talking something slowly in an agitated mood. The gate keeper wants to explain them something as he guesses their experience, but the ladies go out neglecting him. If a lady is alone she looks here and there and attempts to sit somewhere behind a tree, a strong voice is sure to reach to her which remains often about the people who don’t have a sense of sanitation and keep the government campus dirty or more than this.

Just think about the problem our ladies have to face every now and then while moving through a busy market place. Gents have no problem though they have for number two, but they think it to be their birth right to stand anywhere on the footpath and to do the needful. For number two, they can easily search out a place – a barren and neglected park, a drain flowing behind some bushes or even a dry tunnel under a bridge. After that they come back with faces like they have just won a battle.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak has been the one godly person who observed this civic problem closely, especially the problem with ladies, slum dwellers, and of those caught in a busy area of some city lacking social amenities. I am talking about the hero who came down to solve the problem, and found out the Sulabh Shouchalayas and who has established the Sulabh International.
The Time magazine has done a good job of responsibility of encouraging an innovative person by naming him among “Heroes of Environment 2009”, under the category of “Scientists and Innovators”. Dr. Pathak may or may not be a scientist; he is a cent per cent innovator. The magazine has credited him with developing the technology (yes, see the definition of technology) for a new toilet and founding the non- profit, non- government Sulabh Sanitation Movement to bring his creation to those who needed it the most. This movement spread from one area to the other area and gradually covered the whole country. I think, the advertising company that developed advertisement for an Ayurvedic medicine from the people suffering from indigestion or dysentery and telecasts a play back dialogue that means in English – whereever you went, you saw the toilets only; should have improved like this – whereever you went, you saw(Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s) toilets only.

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Sulabh International

According to the magazine – “Dr. Pathak’s twin pit toilets which cost a minimum of £ 15 to make one piece can be installed in any village, house or mud hut, and it reduces water consumption, besides producing bio-gas and fertilizer. His toilets, the designs of which he has made available to NGOs around the country, are used by around ten million people daily, helping push the number of people in rural India with access to a toilet from 27 percent five years ago to 59 percent today.” The citizens of India should indeed be thankful to Dr. Pathak for his unique innovation. Now, for homeless, and for those who don’t have sanitation in cities across South Asia and Central Asia, Dr. Pathak’s technology has also been used to construct over 5,500 public toilet complexes.

The Gandhian philosophy of burying human excreta underground and to leave the same for the natural decomposition was not adopted by many people as it was said to involve some human effort – of digging deep furrows and leveling them after their use. Doing something on our own is an issue of prestige rather than spending a small amount of money over it. Though the Gandhian philosophy of putting the matter into natural process of cycling of materials was in no way less than a great innovation, it could not be brought into practice. On the other hand it remained basically meant for the rural settings. He was the one who for the first time opposed the practice of lifting the night soil. According to him, the man who does this job is a human being after all, and it is the moral duty of every citizen to remove him from this job by offering him a better one. Instead, he advocated to device his own ways and methods of sanitation. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak can be regarded as one and alone hero of removing the man carrying night soil from his inhuman job and placing him on the post of a manager of his Sulabh Shouchalayas. IN fact, Sulabh toilets should employ those people as rewards who used to do that type of job earlier.

No doubt we generate bio-gas through Sulabh toilets to contribute in solving the problem of energy up to some extent, the construction of Sulabh complexes involves some money and maintenance charges though minor and that are met with the minor earnings from the complexes themselves, the Gandhian philosophy meant basically for the poor of rural settings who still can follow it to solve the problem of sanitation and to enhance the fertility of their fields. However, this practice may still be thought to be unhygienic by many who see vast volumes of hospital wastes degenerating in open in the backyards of government hospitals, take for example the backyard of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi and many other hospitals, no matter whether government’s or private, nursing homes and dispensaries. What matters here are, the civic sense and the will power of the governments.

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