LCI: Sir, you are a benchmark for socialist entrepreneurs, which is not a very easy path. What is your 21st century strategy for your organization?
Ans: My case is little different. I wanted to be lecturer in the department of sociology. I joined a society which was formed to celebrate the birth century of Mahatma Gandhi. It was the year 1968.I did my graduation in 1964 in continuation I couldn’t do my MA, but later I did MA in Sociology in English and I did my PHD, I did many things but not in continuity so I become a school teacher, did a small job and finally I was satisfied. There I got this idea to fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi to restore the human rights and dignity of the untouchables who used to clean human excreta. Gandhi was concerned for them and also we have literal issue of defecation in open, so I was there in the society for two and half years it was difficult for me to work because by birth I belong to a Brahmin cast, I touched a lady untouchable when I was a child and for that matter my grandmother forced me to sallow cow-dung and cow urine and drink Ganga's water to purify myself. It actually was chilly winter but she forced me to take bath. So that was the background, so, when I was told to fulfill the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi I shared this story to my general secretary that sir -I am from Brahmin cast and it is difficult for me because we were told all the time not to take food from this hand or other hand. Secondly, I was not an engineer so unless I give alternative to bucket toilets to clean untouchables how I can ask you not to use buckets toilet. She didn’t check this she said no-no I don’t know all this I see light in you that you can do. I do not know why she said this. Then I went and lived in colony of untouchables and scavengers for three months. It was taught to us to build repo with the community for which you want to work so I went and lived in the colony of untouchables and I had food with them, talk to them about their values and so forth. One day in the fine morning a newlywed girl. She was being forced by in-laws to go to backyard town to clean bucket tribe. She was trying very hard with them and was not ready to go I went and intervene but her mother in law asked me what you would do from tomorrow if she says that forbid by from one hand I have no answer .After few days a boy wearing red shirt he was attacked by the bull. People rushed to save him but somebody shouted from the back that he belonged to untouchable colony everyone backed soon and the boy was injured in such a way we took him to hospital and he was declared dead there. By going and staying to the untouchable colony I was not sure that I will continue because my father was very sad and ours early marriage then in the hospital I forgot my father in law my father and my Brahmin community and there I secured how to fulfill the dreams of Gandhi, that is the beginning. I am writing a book “toilet a tool of social change” so here we have seen the technology now so two technologies are most crucial because with old system we are not going to achieve to stop defecation in open or manual cleaning of human excreta. So I invented the technology which is appropriate, affordable, indigenous and perpetual. In the beginning people had a subtle views now they have accepted as happens it’s a long story I am leaving it here, so I installed two toilets in a small town of Hara in Bihar and from there journey begin so I worked in the Gandhi community then the chief minister of Bihar and the minister concerned he asked me to formed this Sulabh and he said that you form the organization and we will get it recognized with government. So with this initiative Sulabh was always called Sulabh Shochalya sansthan now a Sulabh International so it was founded. (I am explaining all this because of social entrepreneurship) so as usual I also applied for the grant Rs.70000 roughly or 5000 $ from the govt. So Secretary to the department he asked me to come and then I went to see him he started laughing I was surprised that why he is laughing. He asked me who are you, I said sir I am the secretary of the organization you asked me to come to see you, he said yes-yes I ordered for the tea already, I thought an old man with a stick in his hand, a freedom fighter will come to see me you are just a young boy. Did you work with Gandhi? I said When Gandhi ji assassinated, I was 5 years old. He offered me a cup of tea and said I have gone through your file have you did these entire thing. I said yes sir; he said your programme is going to create a great impact in this country in sanitation sector and he said this in 1971. At that time Sulabh was very new. Can an IAS officer visualize it. Then he said I see danger in it he said the danger is you are asking for a grant. he expressed that getting funds will be an issue. This year you will get a grant of 1 000 $, next year the finance department will raise the objections and then after two years again you will get 1000 $, your programme will not continue. So I have a thought for you, you don’t take grant you take money from the implementation of the programme and unless until you use the misuse of money of some agency of some people your programme will continue I said sir I will not misuse it he said no-no now you don’t have any money but a man changes when he gets money. So before writing on the file I want one guarantee from you not a bank guarantee but a moral guarantee that you will not misuse any money, can you remember my face? I said, Of course, Sir. When you try to misuse the money of the government or any agency or anybody you will remember me once. I promised that no sir I will not misuse any money I wrote on the file that the organization should not be given grants it’s been given a work and out of saving it should run the organization and that is the beginning how from grant taking to self reliance started from there. So first check I got it took time it’s a long story so first check I got is of Rs 10$ so man who sent the check he asked his clerk to come if he misuses the money what will happen, he saw me from top to bottom, no sir the boy doesn’t look like this and if he does so you can deduct the same from my salary he said no my salary is more than you, you don’t know him I know him from before why do you take guarantee I take his guarantee and he gave me the check. And now, Sulabh is handling the project of 70-80 million $ per annum. I used to go house to house to motivate and speak to people, provide the material like bricks, cement and so many and so forth and to get constructed toilets. Now we have 60000 men working in this country and also we have worked in Kabul and Afghanistan and right now we are working in Uganda. We have chain 14 countries of South Africa. So the question is that is to see the entrepreneurship I didn’t initiate, it came from the idea from somebody but it became successful that is important, so why people say this entrepreneurship only because the social work have never been so successful. The rest of them depend on the grants and donations. How this entrepreneurship became so successful I have just told you.
LCI: Jairam Ramesh recently said- "Indian Railways is the world's biggest open toilet." What steps should be taken to improve the sanitation of the Railways?
Dr. Pathak: I was also one of the members in the IIT Kanpur and when they decided to have biological toilets which they have installed in some trains but if you see the speed it will take 100 years minimum to cover the entire structures. What I have suggested is that there should be containers in the bottom and the maximum duration of stoppage is from Trivandrum to Jammu is 13 hours except that all the stoppages are of 6-7 hours. So, on the stoppage you have to take out container and put other container and there should be a biogas plant near railway stations and there you can empty the containers and that also can be used for lighting street lights etc. The only solution at present is elide subject that can be used for tomorrow but for the present this is the only possible answer where the human excreta will not fall on the tracks and then only we can save the railways stations from the human fesses. This is the only alternative but they didn’t accept the same and they have just started some experimentation on biological toilets and now they have 5-6 trains built like this. Sewerage was built in India in 1870. London was the first town in 1850 New York was the second city in 1860 and Kolkata is the third city in 1870. And from 1870 to right now the number of the cities has been grown up to 7935 approximately and the sewerage planning has been done only in 160 towns so in 142 years, only 160 town in 7935 towns (I am not talking about villages) I am talking about urban only so what about biological toilets but anyways God bless them and if they can do we are happy with that.
LCI: Your organization is very different with a vital mission on Sanitation. You have a prayer and encyclopedia also on Sanitation. If we were to look into the working of an NGO or an organization- what are some of the beliefs and systems of your organization that you foster?
Dr.Pathak: What is important is human development, so the work has to be blended with philosophy and the spiritual aspects of the life unless you combine together you cannot be a happy person. You must have read in newspaper that one very rich person of US who owned many islands etc, His granddaughter name is Suklana. One day it came in a newspaper that she stays very busy. I thought she is granddaughter of a person who is one of the richest person in this world and why she was busy? It means wealth alone cannot make us happy. Success alone cannot make us happy so we have to blend what is the philosophy and in Sulabh you will surely find we have tried to combine all together. And if you have seen the prayer, Gandhi used to pray at 4 am but due to office timings it is not possible to do it at that time so we do it 10am. So it is a great job to enjoy happiness, look other things, and look at wisdom how to tackle it and how to wear it. So in Sulabh its not only sanitation or about untouchables or restoration of the people who use to clean but it’s a combination of human development and the fact in the prayer we talk about the human beings, we talk about humanity and mankind but we don’t talk about the nations, religion and cast. So this is mostly important.
LCI: Your organization works at the very grass-root level. Do you believe that the high pay-cheque awaiting MBAs are ready to devote their time for a more universal cause and join NGOs?
Dr. Pathak: They can do better. What we have done exceptionally the way I am a drop out. But those who have more knowledge and more education they have basic skills of cleanliness, appreciation of beauty and good place. So suppose when Dr. Been Pandey he came from London and he went to Gandhi ashram and asked Gandhi to give some work Gandhi said you are PHD from London what will you do in ashram, he said no give me some work. So after 6 months Gandhi become very angry and said ok go and clean toilets and he did so for six months and he did it so nicely because he was very educated person. So later he was appointed as a personal secretary of Gandhi. So if those who are MBAs and Law graduates and if they want to come to this sector, they can have good and decent living and they can do good work so it is required now they should come. And the young boys and girls who have good education should come in this sector because what we have done it is clear in that image. Beginning is the beginning we have done the things so far we have found the way, but much have to be done throughout the country in India and around the worlds so therefore I would welcome if the students of MBAs and the Law if they can come and join this sector.
LCI: Dr.Pathank, you personify a true initiator. You struggled so much to live this dream and bring about the revolution in sanitation. There is a dearth of initiative-takers. Is there something wrong in the upbringing of our youth than needs correction?
Dr. Pathak: No-No youths of the India are well informed then in our days. If a small child comes to us he is so updated with latest information we cannot compare and there’s no comparison of knowledge in older times and today. We just need to guide them and need to show them right way. Now I have started an institute i.e. Sulabh Iinternational Institute for empowerment. I wanted to be a teacher and become or a lecturer and now I am a perfect teacher and I can teach the subject of sanitation in detail and I have experience and expertise in this subject real teacher I became and now if I can pass this knowledge and experience to young boys and girls they can do good work in their own field. They just need proper guidance, we need to empower them with the training and they can do much better work than us. Girls and boys are up-to-date and more informed more aptitude more committed to work. Only problem is that they have gone to software only and stopped working for India. So if you give emphasis on software give emphasis on hardware also. (For me I was borne with a silver spoon. Later on by father sold all the properties, I have experienced both richness and only poverty object to vertical sides) so therefore as and they have felt India thing wrong about doing hardware so therefore now we should teach both hardware and software If you can go today for hardware you can go tomorrow in software but if you don’t know the hardware only software the problem arises. So that is required in this country that the teaching should be on both side the moment computer goes down they all say-oh! No employment. Employment is there but you don’t want to work in field or in hardware side, jobs are there but today youth feel job means only in software. After coming from office they want to go to Gym, Pub, Bar or Club. And if they ask to go in filed they deny. So now a days the boys and girls should be given training of both sides and there’s no problem. Youth needs proper training and guidance.
LCI: 'The various social strata only divide and weaken our existence and development'- What is your dream for the future of civilization and how can we achieve this?
Dr.Pathak: Pundit Nehru said once in Germany in 56, so when they asked from Nehru where you feel that your country will be advanced country he said that the day every citizen will have a flush toilet in their house I will feel India has achieved development and progressed so civilization means you should have proper facilities and amenities in the house. India has two problems-one is the lack of sanitation toilets and secondly lack of culture of proper sanitation. You must have gone foreign countries and you must have seen that when they go to toilet if something goes wrong they clean it and they come out. In India they go to toilet and then Ram- Ram, now the problem is of toilet cleaner. So Indians we have to taught both on one hand we have to provide them the facility and on the other hand we have to tell them how to improve the culture of sanitation. You must have seen our restaurants they are very clean, food is good, decoration is good the moment you go to the toilet it’s horrible that shows the culture of the owner of the restaurant if they can afford good food and decoration and clean restaurant why not good toilet. So therefore in 21st century if you want to civilize you should stop defecation in open at the earliest and also develop a culture of sanitation then only we can call ourselves a civilized society.
LCI: Lastly, what will be your message to the grooming MBAs and Professionals of our Community?
Dr.Pathak: “One mission one life” that will fulfill and if you have many missions in your life it will be difficult to achieve. So therefore from age of 25 to 40 this is real age of a human. From 25 to 45 if you are successful anywhere then you will go up if you are not successful in this period then you will not be able to contribute. So the first thing is “One Mission One Life”. I am in this field of sanitation for the past 42 years, I was speaking in one assembly once and after the lecture one lady from Uganda came to me he caught may hand and said what did you say 35 years only one job and nothing else only sanitation I said yes madam. The question is how long you want to continue a career. Then although this is difficult to suggest but there are three layers one if you love your work more than your wife and children more then you are on top if you love your wife your children and your work on par then you are second and if you love your wife and children first and work second then you are third and you have to decide on which layer you want to be achieve. My case is the first layer and if you ask me what independence you have in your life so I can say I couldn’t play with my children, I couldn’t drop them to school, I couldn’t go out with my family so that is only I can tell you so therefore if you want to number one then you have to work very hard. Then there are five things vision, mission, commitment, capabilities and eviction. If you could combine all five together, you can become a very successful person. And lastly, God has helped you somewhere that should be morality of life. You can earn your livelihood but you should not forget In Quran it is said before you eat just check up with the neighbor’s whether they have taken food or not so that motto should be in life and that will give you satisfaction.