Hon`ble Shri P. Chidambaram
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram
former Union Finance Minister
and Senior Congress Leader
“I am the son of the son of Mahatma Gandhi but
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is the 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 meet 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.”
– Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi
Profile of Hon’ble Shri P.
Early life and education:
Shri P. Chidambaram was born to Kandanur L. Ct. L. Palaniappa Chettiar and
Lakshmi Achi in Kanadukathan in the Sivaganga District, in the state of Tamil
Nadu, India. His maternal grandfather was Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar, a
wealthy merchant and banker from Chettinad. Chidambaram did his schooling
at the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School he passed the one
year pre University course from Loyola College, Chennai. After graduating with a
BSc degree in statistics from the Presidency College, Chennai, he completed his
Bachelor of Laws from the Madras Law College (now Dr. Ambedkar Government
Law College) and his MBA from Harvard Business School in the class of 1968. He
also holds a Master’s degree from Loyola College in Chennai. During this time
his politics inclined to the left and in 1969 he joined N. Ram, later editor of The
Hindu, and the women’s activist Mythili Sivaraman in starting a journal called
the Radical Review.
Chidambaram has two brothers and one sister. His father’s business interests
covered textiles, trading and plantations in India. He chose to concentrate on his
legal practice and stayed away from the family business
He enrolled as a lawyer in the Madras
High Court, becoming a senior advocate
in 1984. He had offices in Delhi and
Chennai and practised in the Supreme
Court and in various high courts of
Chidambaram was elected to
the Lok Sabha (Lower House) of the
Indian Parliament from the Sivaganga
constituency of Tamil Nadu in general
elections held in 1984. He was reelected from the same constituency
in the general elections of 2004
and 2009. He was a union leader
for MRF and worked his way up
in the Congress party. He was the Tamil Nadu Youth Congress president and then
the general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Pradesh Congress Committee unit.
He was inducted into the Union (Indian federal) Council of Ministers in
the government headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on 21 September 1985
as a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Commerce and then in the Ministry
of Personnel. His main actions during his tenure in this period was to control
the price of tea and he has been criticised by the Government of Sri Lanka for
destroying the Sri Lankan tea trade by fixing the prices of the commodity in
India using state power. He was elevated to the rank of Minister of State in
the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in January 1986. In
October of the same year, he was appointed to the Ministry of Home Affairs as
Minister of State for Internal Security. He continued to hold both offices until
general elections were called in 1989. The Indian National Congress government
was defeated in the general elections of 1989.
In June 1991, Chidambaram was inducted as a Minister of State (Independent
Charge) in the Ministry of Commerce, a post he held till July 1992. He was
later re-appointed Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of
Commerce in February 1995 and held the post until April 1996. He made some
radical changes in India’s export-import (EXIM) policy, while at the Ministry of
In 1996, Chidambaram quit the Congress party and joined a breakaway
faction of the Tamil Nadu state unit of the Congress party called the Tamil Maanila
Congress (TMC). In the general elections held in 1996, TMC along with a few
national and regional level opposition parties, formed a coalition government.
The coalition government came as a big break for Chidambaram, who was given
the key cabinet portfolio of Finance. His 1997 budget is still remembered as the
dream budget for the Indian economy. The coalition government was a shortlived one (it fell in 1998), but he was reappointed to the same portfolio in the
Government formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004.
In 1998, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took the reins of the Government
for the first time and it was not until May 2004 that Chidambaram would be
back in Government. Chidambaram became Minister of Finance again in the
Congress party - Communist Party United Progressive Alliance government
on 24 May 2004. During the intervening period Chidambaram made some
experiments in his political career, leaving the TMC in 2001 and forming his
own party, the Congress Jananayaka Peravai, largely focused on the regional
politics of Tamil Nadu. The party failed to take off into mainstream Tamil Nadu
or national politics. Just before the elections of 2004, he merged his party with
the mainstream Congress party and when the Congress won the election, he was
inducted into the Council of Ministers under the new Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh as cabinet Minister of Finance.
On 30 November 2008, he was appointed the Union Home Minister following
the resignation of Shivraj Patil who had come under intense pressure to tender
his resignation following a series of terror attacks in India, including the Mumbai
attacks on 26 November 2008. The public response to this move was generally
favourable given Chidambaram’s reputation for competence and efficiency.
He has been credited with taking the bold decision of prioritising elections
above corporate demands to deploy security for T20-20 matches of IPL.
In 2009, Chidambaram was re-elected from the Sivaganga Lok Sabha
constituency in the Congress and retained the Home ministry. He was one of the
representatives of the Central Government when a tri-party agreement was signed
with the Gorkha Hill Council and the Government of West Bengal, an agreement
which was a result of Mamata Banerjee’s effort to end a decade long unrest in the
hills of Darjeeling.
The Indian National Congress appointed P. Chidambaram as one of thirteen
senior spokespersons on 15 September 2014.
Family and personal life:
Chidambaram comes from an extremely rich merchant family which was involved
in many charitable activities. His mother, Lakshmi Achi, was the daughter of Raja
Sir Annamalai Chettiar, a wealthy banker and merchant, who owned an estate
of 90 villages in Tamil Nadu and was granted the title of Raja by the British Raj.
Annamalai Chettiar was the founder of Annamalai University and United India
Insurance Company Limited. His brother Ramaswami Chettiar was the founder of
Indian Bank and the co-founder of another major banks.
He is married to Nalini Chidambaram, daughter of Justice (Retd.) P.S.
Kailasam, Supreme Court, and Mrs. Soundra Kailasam, a renowned Tamil poet
and author, who is a senior advocate practising in the Madras High Court and in
the Supreme Court of India. He has a son, Karti P. Chidambaram, who graduated
with a BBA degree from the University of Texas, Austin, and a Masters in Law
from the University of Cambridge. Karti, a Congress Party’s AICC member, is
active in Tamil Nadu state politics. Karti is married to Dr. Srinidi Rangarajan,
a well-known Bharathanatiyam dancer and medical doctor, working with the
Apollo Group of Hospitals in Chennai. Karti and Srinidhi have a daughter, Aditi
India Infrastructure Finance
Company Limited (IIFCL) Csr
1. IIFCL a premier infrastructure company in the country is
financing infrastructure project across the country.
2. As a public sector company, IIFCL CSR activities
are closely linked with the principles of sustainable
economic development. The objective of these efforts
is not only to help the society by providing facilities for
health, education civil amenities etc… but also to create
opportunities for development of skills, self-employment
etc... For sustainable development.
3. IIFC is focussing on
• Skill development for sustainable income generation
• Literacy / education
• Safe drinking water / health care and sanitation
• Infrastructure development.
4. As a part of CSR activities , IIFCL has dedicated 28 toilet
complex in 15 schools of Sivagangai district of Tamilnadu
for a project cost of 2,38,38,000/- and for this year, again
they are funding 1,85,37,000/- for constructing 114 toilet
unit for 18 school of Thiruvarur district of Tamilnadu.
About the training institute
Hon]ble Shri P. Chidambaram who is a former Finance Minister and
a member of parliament seven times, is very keen in developing the
hygiene of Indians.
He laid the foundation stone, for a rural sanitation training
institute, to be set up by Sulabh International Social Service
Organisation in Nagarampatti, Sivagangai, Tamilnadu.
He says, the idea of training rural youth in sanitation and
hygiene is unique. The institute would come up in Sivagangai
district Nagarampatti panchayat area, where unemployed youth
would be trained in plumbing, toilet construction, electric fittings,
housekeeping, child care, para medical assistance said Sulabh Founder
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. It will have the capacity of 200 trainees would
be operational in a years’ time and an English medium school would
also be setup with in the campus.
Now the preliminary work have been started and very soon the
school / training centre will be start functioning and lot of people
will be privileged through the vocational training centre which
includes fashion designing, tailoring, computer course, typewriting,
stenography, beautician course etc... And they will be provided job
opportunities as well.
Differences may be many, but the bond of brotherhood links
altogether. Openness is a feeling that comes with space. Education
broadens the horizon with its exposure of knowledge. The main
concept of the CBSC School to be started is giving a quality education
equally from poor to rich student without any partiality. Lot of
extracurricular activities will be given to the students for their skill
development. Qualified teachers will be appointed and world class
education by imparting study skills and life skills to be a winner in
the global society and to face the emerging challenges with leadership
qualities including dedication and human values.
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister) alongwith local leaders
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister) and local leaders alongwith Dr. Bindeshwar
Pathak, Founder, Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement and Sulabh Social Workers.
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister) and Dr. Pathak, while
inauguration of Foundation stone at Madhagupatti, Sivagangai, Tamilnadu
alongwith local leaders and Sulabh Social workers
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister) and Dr. Pathak, during the inauguration
ceremony at Madhagupatti, Sivagangai, Tamilnadu alongwith local leaders and Sulabh Social workers.
Bhumi Pujan – Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister of India, laying the foundation
stone at Madhagupatti, Sivagangai, Tamilnadu
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister of India and Dr. Pathak, having discussion
about the School toilets for the children of Sivagangai District, Tamilnadu.
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister) and Dr. Pathak, during the inauguration
ceremony at Madhagupatti, Sivagangai, Tamilnadu.
Lighting the lamp by Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister) and other dignitaries of
IIFCL at Raja Higher Sec. School, Sivagangai on inauguration of School toilet blocks constructed at 15
Schools in Sivagangai District, Tamilnadu on February 01, 2014.
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister of India, being welcomed
by the associate members of Sulabh International.
From Left: Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance Minister), delivering his speech at Raja
Higher Sec. School, Sivagangai on Inauguration of School toilet blocks constructed at 15 Schools
in Sivagangai District, Tamilnadu on February 01, 2014 and funded by India Infrastructure Finance
Company Limited (IIFCL), Smt. G. Srividya Ganapathy, Hony. Dy. Controller, Sivagangai Branch, Shri.
P.R. Jaisankar, Chief General Manager, IIFCL, Shri. S.B. Nayar, Chairman and Managing Director,
IIFCL, and Dr. Suman Chahar, Sr. Advisor, Sulabh International.
From right: Dr. Suman Chahar, Shri. S.B. Nayar, Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram (the then Finance
Minister), Shri P.R. Jaysankar, during the Inauguration of School toilet blocks constructed at 15
Schools in Sivagangai District, Tamilnadu.
Construction of School toilets
in 15 schools of Sivagangai
Sulabh International Social
using fund under CSR scheme by
India Infrastructure Finance
Company Limited (IIFCL)
Raja Hr. Sec. School, Sivagangai
Inside view of Raja Hr. Sec. School,
of six seated
toilet block for
toilet block for
Girls at Raja Hr.
Front view of C.S.I. High School Manamadhurai, Sivagangai District.
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Finance
27-February-2014 12:31 IST
Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives of Companies Help
in Creating Infrastructure says Union Finance Minister Shri P.
Chidambaram; Toilet Complexes in 15 Schools Dedicated in
The Union Finance Minister Shri P Chidambaram has lauded the Corporate
Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiatives taken by companies to further
upgrade the social infrastructure facilities available in rural and semi urban
areas of the country. He said that such initiatives have created significant
infrastructure in socially relevant areas. The Finance Minister pointed out
that the initiative, which insists on 2% of the profits earned by a company
should be invested in socially relevant projects was approved by the Union
Cabinet recently. Shri Chidambaram was dedicating 28 toilet complexes
built in 15 schools by the India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL)
in Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu yesterday.
Shri Chidambaram said that the initiative taken by the IIFCL was a
laudable one because it impacts directly on the health and sanitation of a
community directly. He requested schools, parents and teachers to ensure
that the toilets are maintained in good hygiene.
Shri S B Nayar, Chairman and Managing Director, IIFCL presided over
the function. Smt Suman Chehar of the Sulabh International that built the
complexes and Shri P R Jaishanker, Chief General Manager, IIFCL took part
in the function.
Under the scheme, Sulabh International has built 28 toilet complexes in
15 schools in Sivagangai district. The complexes have been built in scientific,
environment friendly manner and the personnel from Sulabh International
will interact with the schools and the community for a few more weeks
to make them fully conversant with how the toilets can be used most
Brief of Dr. Pathak & Sulabh
Bindeshwar Pathak is a versatile genius who has made
pathbreaking contributions to society without the power
of post or money. He has turned the pages of India’s long
history of untouchability, social discrimination, and the mass practice of open
defecation. In recent years, he has given a new life to the long-suffering
widows of India.
The Sulabh Founder is a Renaissance Man who combines in his multifaceted
personality the traits of a social scientist, an engineer, an administrator and
an institution-builder. What is remarkable is that he has ingeniously utilized
all these talents to enrich and empower the depressed classes and improve
community health, hygiene and environmental sanitation. He is thus fulfilling
the dreams of two national icons—Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.
Dr. Pathak is a great humanist and social
reformer of contemporary India. To the weaker
sections of society especially, his is the
compassionate face of a paternal redeemer.
He has the vision of a philosopher and the
zeal of a missionary. An icon of sanitation and
social reform, he has made a difference in the
lives of millions of people. With his efforts the
erstwhile untouchables have been allowed by
the society to intermingle with them, to live on
a par with them, dine with them and pray with
them in the temples. He has created a new culture
that embraces the poor and extols the dignity of
labour. His boundless love for the downtrodden
finds expression in myriad and tangible ways. No
wonder those who know him swear that Dr.
Pathak is born to help the helpless.
He is the leader of an international crusade for restoration of human rights
and dignity to millions of scavengers (cleaners and carriers of human excreta),
traditionally known as untouchables, and for providing safe and hygienic human
waste disposal system which can benefit 700 million Indians who go out for
open defecation. Dr. Pathak’s multi-pronged efforts in bringing scavengers,
worst victims of institutionalized caste discrimination and engaged in a subhuman occupation, in the mainstream of national life, have taken the shape of
a movement for social justice and social reform.
Dr. Pathak is an internationally acclaimed expert on sanitation and he has
developed and implemented on pan-Indian scale a low-cost and appropriate
toilet technology, popularly known as the Sulabh Shauchalaya System. This
invention has been declared as a Global Best Practice by United Nations
HABITAT and United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS).
The credit of sensitizing Indians towards sanitation and those engaged
in the sanitation work goes to Dr. Pathak. Apart from low-cost sanitation, his
contributions are widely known in the areas of bio-energy and bio-fertilizer, liquid
and solid waste management, poverty alleviation and integrated rehabilitation
programme for the liberated scavengers.
Dr. Pathak is a winner of several national and international awards—Padma
Bhushan from the Government of India (1991); the International Saint Francis
Prize for Environment (1992); the Legend of Planet Award from the French
Government (2003); the Stockholm Water Prize by Stockholm International
Water Institute (2009), to name just a few. More recently, he has been selected
by the Time magazine as one of the Heroes of the Environment for the designer’s
low-cost toilet that has helped the planet, improved sanitation for millions and
freed countless scavengers from a life of cleaning human waste. He is ranked by
The Economist (November 2015) amongst the World’s Top 50 diversity figures
in public life along with US President Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie and Bill
Gates. In April 2016 in New York City, Dr. Pathak is being honoured with the
New York Global Leaders’ Humanitarian Award for his outstanding service to
Mr. Timothy J. Roemer
the United States to India
is Excellency Mr. Timothy J. Roemer, Ambassador of the United States to India,
delivered the Commencement Address in the University of Notre Dame, Graduate
School, Indiana, U.S.A. on 21st of May 2011.
The following is an extract from his speech:
“To motivate you, let me tell you a story about …… toilets!
India is a country with many inspiring people. There is, of course, Mahatma Gandhi,
the father of the nation. His teachings of tolerance really are the key to the success
of democracy in India and he has influenced civil rights movements around the world
including in the United States.
There is Mother Teresa, who lived and worked in India although her legacy now touches
the lives of children, women, and the poor all over the world.
There is Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
But there are also many inspiring people, lesser known to the world, like Dr. Bindeshwar
Dr. Pathak, although from a very high caste, knew at a very young age that there was
nothing wrong with touching the untouchables. He has dedicated his life to restoring the
human rights and providing dignity to scavengers, which is the bottom-rung caste in India
responsible for cleaning up human waste.
To do so, he used technology to develop a safe and environment-friendly toilet to replace
pit latrines, reducing the need for scavenging and improving sanitation and hygiene for
both rural and urban poor.
He provided education to the children of scavengers, helping to break the never-ending
family cycle of scavenging.
He provided alternative economic opportunities so that women no longer have to clean
toilets for the rest of their lives to provide for their families.
All this has helped tackle a bigger problem – breaking down the caste system in India.
As you leave Notre Dame today, I hope you will remember the story of Dr. Pathak.
He did not start out to change the world. He started out to help some scavengers in a few
villages in Bihar, a small state in the north of India on the Nepal border.
As you start out today, you do not have to change the world overnight. But I encourage you
to try to make a difference.”
Mr. Richard Rahul Verma
United States Ambassador to India
visited at the Sulabh campus
on August 13, 2015
hank you Doctor, Thank you Sulabh. Thank you to everyone who is here
today and for all that you have done.
It is really a great privilege and honour for me to be here with all of you
because you have done so much to transform ordinary lives. As people’s lives have
been impacted in such a special way and they have been given the respect they
deserve - this has a huge impact on millions of people across this country.
I am so proud to be here today and to meet all of you and to congratulate
all of you for all the outstanding work that you have done. It has been absolutely
amazing. The commitment to work on clean water and sanitation and to help realize
India’s goal and Prime Minister’s vision is something we are very committed to.
On behalf of the President and on behalf of the Secretary of the State,
I know this is a huge priority for them, it is a huge priority for our mission, for
USAID team, for our health team at the Embassy and we are proud to be partner
with you. We look forward to working with you, on these really worthwhile
efforts and what I learnt here today that is it doesn’t take a lot of money, that is
necessary. It doesn’t take most advance technology; it takes commitment from
people to change the way they do things; it takes change by governments, and by
leaders; it takes some finding and again to impact health, safety to education and
particularly to impact girls and how people can transform their lives; really we are
committed to these efforts thoroughly with you.
I would tell you that my parents immigrated from Punjab in Jalandhar and
I was able to go back to the house where my grandmother lived, in 1974. I was
there as a boy and there was no flush toilet in the house in 1974. So I knew exactly
what the challenge is and I also know that when I went two months back things
have changed dramatically for the better and the world’s new infrastructure, new
sanitation, and new toilets could be put; so it’s long way to go, so much progress
has been made under the leadership of such an inspiring leader that you have here
in Dr. Pathak. It’s really amazing; we would continue to be your partner, thanks
for the great team. From the U.S. Embassy we congratulate all of you and all of
you are really role models for us and we would be following your footsteps.
Thank you very much.
Alexendre Cécé Loua
Ambassador of the Republic of Guinea
visited at Sulabh campus
on January 19, 2016
".......I belong to a developing country and
today I know the reason why the Prime
Minister Shri Narendra Modi has taken
the decision to build toilets all over the
country. The Sulabh Technology has to
“Mr. Harry G. Barnes, US Ambassador to India, at a Sulabh
Project in Patna (Bihar).”
Amongst Top 50 Icons Recognised in
the global diversity list
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder, Sulabh International (India)
"Humanist, social reformer and diversity champion. Pathak works as
an advocate for the so-called ‘untouchable’ caste, so they may work,
live and pray as a fully integrated part of Indian life. His work in the
improvement of sanitation and production of bio-gas is changing health
and wealth outcomes for the poorest people and is cited as one of
the Globally Best Practice by the United Nations Centre for Human
– THE ECONOMIST
Top 50 diversity figures in public life
This category recognises the achievements of individuals
who have used their position in public life, for example as
a campaigner, politician or journalist to make an impact in
Ranked by The Economist amongst the
World's Top 50 diversity figures in public
life along with US President Barack
Obama, Angelina Jolie and Bill Gates
Always clean up after yourself. You are responsible for the waste
you produce and you should ensure that it’s disposed of in an
environmentally sound manner.’ -BINDESHWAR PATHAK
This designer's low-cost toilet has
helped the planet, improved
sanitation for millions-and freed
countless scavengers from a life of
cleaning human waste
one pit is in use, the other is left covered. Within two
years, the waste in the covered pit will dry up, ridding
itself of pathogens, so that it’s suitable for use as
fertilizer. The toilets use 0.4 gal. (1.5 L) of water per
flush, as opposed to the 2.6 gal. (10 L) required by
conventional toilets. They also eliminate the need for
manual scavenging, so Pathak’s NGO—now called the
As the 6-year-old son in an upper-class Brahmin
Sulabh International Social Service Organization—
family, Bindeshwar Pathak wanted to know what
also runs rehabilitation programs for out-of-work
would happen if he touched a scavenger, one of India’s
scavengers, teaching them the skills they need to find
“untouchables,“ stuck at the bottom of the country’s
new jobs. In 2013, Pathak set up a vocational center
social order and fated to collect and dispose of human
in Alwar, Rajasthan, where women are trained in
waste. When he did, his grandmother punished him
tailoring, embroidery, food- processing and beauty
by forcing him to swallow cow dung and urine, and
treatments. Last year, some three dozen of the trainees
making him bathe in water from the Ganges. “This
were flown to New York City to participate in a fashion
issue has bothered me since,“ says Pathak, 66, who
show held at the U.N. headquarters to mark the
describes himself as a humanist and social reformer,
International Year of Sanitation.
“If they continue to clean human excreta, they will not
More recently, Pathak has perfected an excreta
be accepted into society,“
biogas plant that generates biogas to be used for
Discrimination against scavengers is only part of
cooking and electricity. He’s constructed 68
India’s sanitation issue. Today, despite India’s rollicking
such plants in India. His toilets, the design of which
economic growth, some 110 million households
he’s made available to NGOs around the country,
remain without access to a toilet and 75% of the
are used by 10 million people daily, helping push
country’s surface water is contaminated by human and
the number of people in rural India with access to a
agricultural waste. More than half a million children
toilet from 27% five years ago to 59% today. Pathak’s
die each year from preventable water-and sanitationtechnology has also been used to construct over 5,500
related diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and hepatitis.
public-toilet complexes in cities across south and
Pathak, who lived with a colony of untouchables for
central Asia, for people who are homeless or who have
three months in 1968—“If you want to work for a
no sanitation in their houses. The word sulabh—which
community,“ he says, “then you must build rapport
means simple in Hindi—has become synonymous with
within that community“—realized the only way to
the public toilet.
solve the problem was to develop a clean method of
Although the practice of manual scavenging
human waste disposal that would be cost-effective for
illegal in India in 1993, there are still 115,000
the average Indian household and would, at the same
scavengers working in the country today. But thanks
time, rid the country of the practice of scavenging.
to his innovation and his rehabilitation programs,
He developed the technology for a new toilet and
Pathak estimates that India will be
founded the nonprofit Sulabh Sanitation
scavenger-free within five years. “If the
Movement to bring his creation to those
government wanted, they could solve
who needed it the most.
the problem in a single day,” he says.
Pathak’s twin-pit toilet, which costs a
is only part of India’s “But I’ll take the pessimistic view.”—BY
minimum of $15 to make, can be installed
MRIDU KHULLAR/NEW DELHI
in any village, house or mud hut. While
Flush of genius
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR’S REVOLUTIONARY TOILET MOVEMENT
CHARTS A NEW COURSE IN THE HISTORY OF SANITATION IN INDIA
By KRISHNA KUMAR VR in New Delhi
For China Daily Asia Weekly
hile the world revels in high-tech gadgets and superfluous devices,
this softly-spoken 70-year-old Indian sociologist is always looking
for a means to provide for one basic human need — by constructing
low-cost toilets. More than four decades of work has made him the
harbinger of a social change, affecting the lives and attitudes of
millions in society.
“The toilet is a tool of social change,” believes Bindeshwar Pathak. The United Nations
(UN) estimates that 6 billion of the world’s 7 billion people have mobile phones, but 2.5
billion people are still without sanitation, and around 1.1 billion practice open defecation.
More than half of the 2.5 billion people without sanitation live in India or China.
In India, where less than 31 percent of the population has access to sanitation
facilities, Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a non-profit body founded in
1970 by Pathak, has so far constructed 1.2 million household toilets and 8,000 public
toilets. It maintains the public toilets, with the help of 60,000 associate members, on a
pay-and-use basis, without putting a burden on the government exchequer.
“We are also providing basic healthcare facilities for the poor at these public toilets,”
Sulabh, literally meaning easy, a $4.8 billion social enterprise, has expanded its
network internationally. It has branches operating in Bhutan and Afghanistan. Besides,
many countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia,
Uganda and Burkina Faso have sought guidance, consultancy and services from the
“We are planning to adopt five villages in China where we can demonstrate the
eco-friendly and cheaper toilet technology developed by us,” says Pathak. “China, which
is also facing similar problems like that of India, could adopt the eco-friendly twin-pit
composting toilet with on-site human waste disposal system developed by us.”
This maintenance-free low-cost toilet is simple to construct. And the Sulabh effluent
treatment (SET) system, perfected by Pathak, has the added advantage of being a
source of renewable energy.
“In China, biogas development is a national priority, so our effluent treatment system is
a perfect low-cost solution for the country,” says Pathak. China aims to make its economic
development model greener, an important part of its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).
Born in 1943 into an upper-caste family in Bihar, one of the less developed provinces
of northern India, Pathak’s life so far has been an interesting story of chances and
coincidences. Pathak never planned to become a social entrepreneur, he just wanted to
lead a decent life, and tried his hand at everything that came his way.
“I just respond to a situation,” he says. “Rather intelligently and scientifically.”
At the age of 23, he missed attaining a first class bachelor’s degree by a whisker,
which could have landed him a job as a lecturer in a college. He later worked as a
temporary clerk and even tried his luck as a street salesman, selling his father’s traditional
medicines. But after months of toil, Pathak realized the profession lacked prestige and
respect. “So, I decided to pursue a master’s degree,” he recounts.
In fact, it was a midway-abandoned train journey in the late 1960s to the University
of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, the central province of India, to begin a master’s in
criminology that completely changed his life.
He dropped his higher education plans due to a chance meeting with a relative at a
railway station, who promised him a job that never existed at the Bihar Gandhi Centenary
Celebrations Committee. For months, he worked as unpaid translator there. But later, lady
luck smiled on him as he was inducted into the committee to help design the celebration
Founder of Sulabh International
Social Service Organisation
2005: Founds Sulabh
International Academy of
2002: Develops SET Technology,
which makes biogas plant
effluents free from color, odor
1970: Establishes the Sulabh
International Social Service
2013: Legend of Planet award
from the French Government
2009: Stockholm Water Prize
by the Stockholm International
2008: Hall of Fame Award by
World Toilet Organization at the
World Toilet Summit
2000: Dubai International Award
for Best Practices to Improve the
1991: Padma Bhushan (Third
highest civilian award in India)
for the centenary of the birth of the legendary leader Mahatma Gandhi, which was due
This proved to be a turning point in young Pathak’s life. The committee was formed
with the objective of restoring human dignity among the lowest class of people called
‘Bhangis’ — the untouchables who collected night soil. His job was to explore alternative
scavenging systems and, more daunting, to find a way to bring these scavengers into
“Strangely, when I was just 6 years old I was punished by my grandmother for touching
a scavenger woman,” Pathak recalls. “The upper classes considered it a sin then to touch
the lower-class people.”
The decisive shift in his life came in 1967 when a committee member, Rajendra Lal
Das, convinced him to fulfill one of Mahatma Gandhi’s concerns and look for ways to
deliver the liberation of scavengers.
He went to live in a slum of scavengers for three months, as he wanted to experience
their lives closely. At that time, it was an unthinkable move for an upper-class person.
Those three months, however, changed Pathak’s life and the lives of millions of others in
In those days the Western-style flush toilet and centralized water-borne sewage
system were not affordable for everyone. Pathak therefore developed a new twin-pit toilet.
But he had to wait a long time for the first opportunity to prove his simple solution for
sanitation. In fact, no government organization was willing to try out his plan.
It was only after a chance meeting with a municipal officer who sanctioned him Rs500
(today worth $8.40) to build two public toilets that Pathak, finally, built his maintenancefree toilets for the public.
The success of this model created a huge behavioral change when people began
to pay for the use of public toilets. It brought in a cultural shift, too, when people started
socially accepting those who once were destined just for cleaning toilets.
His success also helped him eliminate the practice of manual scavenging. The noted
Anglo-Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand once said: “What Abraham Lincoln did for blacks in
America, Pathak has done for scavengers in India. Both are great redeemers.”
Pathak has not patented his two-pit toilet technology, which has been adopted across
the country and in many parts of the Southeast Asia by various local bodies.
“Let the world use my technology,” he says. Sulabh is envisioned as an agent of social
and cultural change. Inspired by the Gandhian philosophy of truthfulness, non-violence,
and altruism, he believes in the principle of trusteeship.
“Money alone cannot give satisfaction,” he affirms.
Sulabh has also launched rehabilitation programs for out-of-work scavengers, teaching
them the skills they need to find new jobs. There are vocational centers where women are
trained in tailoring, embroidery and beauty treatments. Even a school was set up in Delhi
for the children of this community.
“This will also enable them to be self-employed or get jobs,” Pathak explains. “It is not
about just toilets, I am trying to build a different society.”
Pathak has also established an academy, the Sulabh International Academy of
Meanwhile, his International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi, the first of its kind in the
world, tells the story of the development of toilets through the ages.
A recipient of global acclaim and numerous awards, Pathak remains unmoved by
popularity and is a hardworking humanist to the core.
“I had never thought that toilets would make me so world-famous,” he smiles. “I have
only one life, so I have only one mission,” he sums up.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
What is the mission of your
Sulabh is based on compassion
and for development of fellow
men. It seeks to develop an
egalitarian society, based on
equal opportunity for every
human being irrespective of
their caste, race and natural
What changes does your
We need more social
talent is missing in the field
and, mostly, managers and
entrepreneurs are unaware of the
Why did you establish the
Sulabh International Museum of
The museum is to highlight and
acknowledge the efforts made
by our predecessors in this field
throughout the world.
Date of Birth:
April 2, 1943
How one simple solution is already bringing better sanitation
to an estimated 10 million people a day.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s
invention of the
Sulabh toilet technology
as one of the five inventions
of the world*
“Less than half of India’s population has access to an indoor toilet in fact more people in the
country own a mobile phone. With very few public lavatories many people are forced to go
in the open that has huge health consequences particularly for women and children.
Over the years there has been very little interest or investment in this sector but one man
is using innovation to try and change that.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is an internationally recognized, sanitation pioneer and Founder
of Sulabh International, the largest non-profit organisation in India.”
*featured on the programme BBC Horizons on 27.10.2013/ 30.03.2014
Video link: http://www.bbc.com/specialfeatures/horizonsbusiness/episode/human-waste/...
BBC WORLD PROGRAMME:
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak and the former untouchable scavenger, Mrs. Usha Chaumar
were specially invited and interviewed on the BBC World News channel on 9th April,
2015. The programme known as BBC Impact was compered by thRRe world famous
television host and commentator Ms. Yalda Hakim. She referred to Dr. Pathak as ‘Mr.
Sanitation’ for his efforts in bringing about a change in the sanitation scenario in India.
Visit on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDMhpTWQ5rg
of India, Mr. R.
Hon’ble Mrs. Anna K. Tibaijuka,
Executive Director of UN-Habitat
presenting the UN-Habitat Scroll of
Honour 2003 Award to Dr. Pathak.
Prize for the
“Canticle of All
Vice President of
the French Senate
Ms Chantal Jourdan
with the Legend of
Planet honour in an
by the President of
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak received the 2009
Stockholm Water Prize on August 20 from the
Hands of H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.
Pope John Paul-II
gave audience to
awarding him with
The Dubai International
Award for Best Practices
to Improve the Living
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak receiving the
UNEP Global 500 Scroll of Honour from
Hon’ble Mr. Fares Bouez, Lebanon’s
Minister of Environment. Executive
Director of UNEP Hon’ble Mr. Kluas
Topfer (on the right) was also present
on the occasion.
Dr. Pathak has conferred upon many
awards but some of the awards are
listed below:1984 : K.P. Goenka Memorial Award
1991 : Padma Bhushan
1992 : The International Saint Francis Prize
for the Environment “Canticle of All
Creatures” at Assisi, Italy
1996 : Global Urban Best Practice by
United Nations Centre for Human
Settlements (UNCHS) at Istanbul
2000 : Dubai International Award for ‘Best
Practices for Improving the Living
Environment’ by UNCHS at Dubai
2003 : Scroll of Honour by UN-Habitat at
2003 : Global 500 Roll of Honour Award by
UNEP at Beirut (Lebanon)
2008 : Hall of Fame Award by World Toilet
Organisation at World Toilet Summit,
2008 National Energy Globe Award, by
Energy Globe at Brussels, Belgium
2009 : 2009 Stockholm Water Prize, Sweden
2009 : Inter-governmental Renewable
Energy Organisation Award (IREO),
USA at New York, USA
2013 : LEGENDE DE LA PLANETE Congres
Fondateur Jeux Ecologiques at
Hon’ble Shri P. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister of India discuss with Dr. Pathak
about the School toilets for children in Sivagangai District, Tamilnadu.
SULABH INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL SERVICE ORGANISATION
In General Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council
Sulabh Bhawan, Palam Dabri Road, New Delhi - 110 045
Tel. Nos. : 91-11-25031518, 25031519; Fax Nos : 91-11-25034014, 91-11-25055952
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]
Website: www.sulabhinternational.org, www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org