With his aspirations to become a university lecturer, the last thing on 20-year old Bindeshwar Pathak’s mind was a career in sanitation. Yet, 30 years later, providing decent toilets and improving the plight of manual scavengers have become his steadfast calling.
Needless to say, his decision to pursue this path in life did not go down well with his high-status Brahmin family. But Pathak persevered, having made the leap from impassive voyeur to ardent activist after witnessing the plight of the scavengers.
His journey has been riddled with challenges: from dealing with bureaucracy and the lack of sustained funding, to tackling resistance to paradigm shifts in deep-seated societal values.
The outcome of his untiring work so far includes an innovative two-pit pour-flush compost toilet that has a seat in the sanitation hall of fame, and a suite of innovative approaches to tackle the issue of stubborn social discrimination in India.