Kumbh Nagar (Allahabad): On the banks of Ganga and Yamuna, history was written silently and unobtrusively on Thursday when around 100 scavengers performed puja and took a holy dip at Sangam. Scavengers, termed untouchables, by the high priests of Hindu religion, were brought from Alwar and Tonk districts of Rajasthan by social reformer Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, who heads the Sulabh International.
For the 100-odd “pilgrims” from Rajasthan, it was a new beginning as they stepped into the waters and after a few moments of hesitation, shouted out aloud, “Har Har Gange”.
These visitors from Rajasthan were delighted to have top priests perform the puja for them. “We have been invited for a meal with the religious leaders and for us, this is an unbelievable experience,” said Jhinu.
Dr Pathak, who is the founder of sanitation movement Sulabh International, said that his organisation had played a significant role in liberating untouchable scavengers from the sub-human occupation of cleaning night soil.
Dr Pathak said that so far Sulabh has converted 1.3 million bucket toilets into flush toilets and lakhs of scavengers have been freed from manual cleaning of human excreta and shackles of untouchability.
Sulabh has constructed more than 8,000 public toilets at important places all over the country which are being used by more than 15 million people everyday. 200 of them are linked with biogas plants.
Dr Pathak said after the human scavengers were relieved from this sub-human occupation, it was then a question of their livelihood — to rehabilitate the scavengers and to bring them in the mainstream of the society which was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi.
“We have been giving them vocational education in different trades like making pappadam, noodles, pickles, stitching, tailoring, embroidery, and facial and beauty parlour training so that they can be self-reliant,” he said.
The products made by them are being sold in the market, hotels and also in the same homes where earlier they used to go and clean the toilets,” he said.