Maharaja Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavnagar University,
(Gujarat University), Ahmadabad,
Dept. of Sociology,
Samaldas Arts College, Bhavnagar,
Sulabh International Center for Action Sociology, New Delhi

3 Days National Seminar
Sociology of Sanitation

Date: 25th to 27th June 2018

Father of Sanitation, Sociology Sulabh Chief, creates academic chairs on the discipline, at two  Gujarat Universities.

A galaxy of country’s eminent sociologists descended on the campus of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, on the occasion of the three-day National Seminar on Sociology of Sanitation, a discipline created and coined by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder, Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement.

His Excellency the Governor of Gujarat, Shri OP Kohli, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, Dr Himanshu Pandya, Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat University and Dr Shailesh Zala, Vice-Chancellor, M.K.Bhavnagar University, graced the event, jointly organised by Maharaja Krishakumarsinghji Bhavnagar University, Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Department of Sociology, Samaldas Arts College, Bhavnagar and Sulabh International Centre for Action Socialogy, New Delhi, held last week, June 25-27, 2018.

The seminar had participation of personages of erudition, drawn from academia, the different universities of the countries.

In his welcome address Dr Zala pointed out the grand coincidence that the country’s cleanliness crusaders Mahatama Gandhi and Hon’ble PM Mr Narendra Modi, both belonged to Gujarat and had been students of the universities of the state.

In his keynote address Dr Pathak said that while Gandhi had dreamed of clean India, the Hon’ble PM was working to realise it. He said he could not make it to the academia even if he really worked hard to be a professor of sociology. Instead, he said, he was assigned to work for the downtrodden, the untouchables, and this is how began his journey with his landmark invention and development of two-pit sanitation technology.

Dr Pathak said that the country’s sociologists had the responsibility to bring change in the society rather than be confined to the academe. Hence the idea and discipline of Sociology of Sanitation that evolved during the course of his work on sanitation and social reforms. He stressed that teaching sociology was not enough and that it needed to be part of the academic curriculum.

Sulabh has held many a seminar and discussions over years with the different stakeholders in the country on the discipline, exhaustively. As a result the subject is already a part of curricula of 11 universities of the country. Dr Pathak announced that Sulabh would extend financial support for two Chairs of Sociology of Sanitation in the respective universities of Gujarat.

Sulabh is widely acclaimed for its path-breaking social interventions in mainstreaming the untouchables into social acceptance and restoration of their human rights.

Dr Pathak informed the gathering that Sulabh had brought the change through absolutely non-violent means, without treading anyone’s raw corns or ruffling anyone’s feathers. “We have advocated and made possible for erstwhile untouchables choose caste of their choice just as people can choose a religion they like,’ he said. No one had thought that widows of this country could touch colours and think of leading a normal life just as a widower had a freedom to do. We have made that possible,” he added.

The women of the households that had no toilets typically must spend sleepless nights waiting for the cover of darkness when they could to go out to relieve themselves. No longer do they have to do that with toilets constructed by Sulabh now in their homes. They can sleep now in those hours peacefully.

“This is about functional sociology, and this is about our books that are ‘talking’. Our sociology talking is not just limited to good words,” said Dr Pathak equating the beneficiaries of various Sulabh sanitation programmes with the ‘talking books sociology’ some of who were present at the Seminar.

Dr Himanshu Pandya, addressing the Seminar said that Dr Pathak had studied, developed remarkable understanding of the social maladies and had provided appropriate solutions.

His Excellency the Governor of Gujarat Shri OP Kohli, in his address, said that Dr Pathak’s was not just a theoretical presentation but a hard core practicality that he had made possible. He said “good that Dr Pathak could not make it to academia; in him we have got a practical sociologist which surely makes a greater sense to the society.”

He said “we have mistaken untouchability for religion instead of cleanliness; Dr Pathak has put the distorted narrative in the right perspective.” He beseeched the universities here to celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of Gandhi in a really meaningful way.

He said that Sociologist-teachers had the responsibility to guide their students into going beyond the books. Sulabh was not just toilets but a movement of larger social reforms that sociology was a powerful instrument of social change, he said. He said all us know corporate social responsibility but there was a need to think of individual social responsibility.

We called for making all out efforts to take forward the grand agenda of Dr Pathak.

The second session of the Seminar had the graphic presentations from the ‘talking books’ of Dr Pathak, who were once the acutely deprived and discriminated section of the society and rose to its respectable echelons. Usha Chaumar, now Usha ‘Sharma’, narrated her story of ordeal as a manual scavenger of excrement to her transformation into an entrepreneur leading a life of dignity her forefathers never knew.

Professor Nil Rattan moderating the session said how she and others like her were Dr Pathak’s ‘talking books’ of sociology. And for that matter ‘he was like a mobile library of such books.”

Pooja, another ex-scavenger-untouchable related her story saying how terrible did she feel when she was made to sit away from other children in her school at lunch hour before Sulabh vocational training centre happened where she took up tailoring and saw her life transform.

Preet Kaur of Ludhiana said her family was too poor to afford even a toilet without which she had to drop out of her school in her childhood. Toilet has given her family a new lease of life which is hugely better for her children which was unthinkable. “I cannot thank enough Dr Pathak; my children now go to school and especially girls are much better off with toilet at or home,” she said.

For Jammu’s Rukhaiyya Bano, who recited couplets in the honour of Dr Pathak and 400 others like her Sulabh training centres could empower them to earn a living for themselves, besides the toilets that changed their life like never before.

Abdul Lateef was effusively all praises for Sulabh chief saying after Gandhi God had sent Dr Pathak to take care the marginalised of the society.

Many Sulabh programmes beneficiaries from across the country shared their tales of change to their now decent lives.

The post-lunch session of the day-one of the Seminar had presentations from participating eminent sociologists which were to continue to the next couple of days of the deliberations.

The Seminar’s heady day-one business was concluded by light, cultural presentation of a skit and some lilting music rendered by artists to the packed auditorium.