Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a phenomenal personality who has done trailblazing innovations using his pragmatic wisdom without power, post or money. He has turned the pages of India’s long history of untouchability, social discrimination, and the mass practice of defecation in the open. As an Avant-grade virtuoso and zealous reformist, he has brought about a sea change in the lives of the poor and the weaker sections of society. In recent years, he has given a new life to the long-suffering widows and provided clean drinking water to the people in arsenic-affected areas of West Bengal.
After college, Dr. Pathak joined the Bhangi-Mukti (scavengers’ liberation) cell, a group dedicated to celebrating the birth centenary of Mahatma Gandhi and promoting a more just and integrated society. Through his work there, Dr. Pathak lived and worked in an untouchable colony at Bettiah in Bihar for three months and observed the way scavengers were dehumanized by mainstream society.
Even though Dr. Pathak wrote his doctoral dissertation on scavenging, he realized that academia could not solve social problems. In his commitment to human rights and dignity, he built up Sulabh as a systematic response to deal with the problem of manual scavenging. He combined theory with practice and launched Sulabh International as a philanthropic, human rights, and social welfare organization in 1970. It is a value-based organization rooted in the emancipation of scavengers, widows and is working for a clean environment.
Even though Dr. Pathak’s organization is sanitation-oriented, it holds true to its fundamental mission to smash phony norms and remove social discrimination. Toilet technology has become a tool for social transformation. Apart from eco-friendly low-cost affordable sanitation, his contributions are widely known in the areas of bio-energy and bio-fertilizer, liquid and solid waste management, water purification, poverty alleviation and integrated rehabilitation, social up-gradation, and empowerment programs for the liberated scavengers.
bio-fertilizer, liquid and solid waste management, water purification, poverty alleviation and integrated rehabilitation, social up-gradation, and empowerment programs for the liberated scavengers.
Dr. Pathak has so far built 1.6 million household toilets and 10,000 public toilet complexes, besides those which he has built under CSR. The biggest public toilet complex in the world is the one built by Sulabh at Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Sulabh Shauchalaya technology has been approved and recommended by UNDP, Unicef, UN-HABITAT, UNCHS, and the governments of India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and South Africa. The Sulabh Museum of Toilets has been adjudged by the BBC as one of the ten quirkiest museums in the world.
At the request of the Supreme Court through the National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA), Dr. Pathak has been providing material and moral support to the widows residing in Vrindavan, Varanasi, and Bhanigram Panchayat of Uttrakhand.
Dr. Pathak has created a new culture that embraces the poor and extols the dignity of labor. He often says that God has helped you to help someone. For his seminal contributions, Dr. Pathak has won several national and international awards. The prominent awards include Padma Bhushan (1991); the International Saint Francis Prize for Environment (1992); the Stockholm Water Prize by Stockholm International Water Institute (2009) and the LEGENDE DE LA PLANETE at Unesco, Paris; (2013). He has been selected by Time magazine as one of the Heroes of the Environment for the designer low-cost toilet.
He was ranked by The Economist (November 2015) amongst the World’s Top 50 diversity figures in public life. He was also honored with WHO Public Health Champion Award and the New York Global Leaders Dialogue Humanitarian Award. Mr. Bill De Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, declared April 14, 2016, as ‘Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak Day’.
The other awards conferred on him are the “Honorary Citizen of the French city of Montier”, ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academics and Management, Nikkei Asia Prize for ‘Culture and Community and the ‘Gandhi Peace Prize’
With his enormous efforts to change society and provide solutions to many problems plaguing it, Dr. Pathak has demonstrated how you can ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’ as dreamt by Mahatma Gandhi. His theory of the Sociology of Sanitation is being taught in more than a score of universities in India. His concept of the Horizontal System of Caste is the innovation of a coolheaded thinker. His phenomenal rise to eminence is due to the positive change he has brought about in the lives of millions of people.
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