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That Gandhi may not be born again[continued]

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Sulabh innovated and improved the Gandhi idea, endorsed by WHO. Pathak's major contribution may well be that he realised that the pit privy was suitable for not just rural areas but for urban India also. A deeply sloping toilet pan was developed to enable effective flushing with just a mug of water. There was a double reward in that: water was conserved and there was no excess water to leach and pollute ground water. A standard, two pits and a toilet-pan, connected by a Y-channel was developed, which enables quick switch soon as one pit filled, after say 6 months. [To view a typical plan, click here and for a sectional view click here] Many variations of the Pan-Y-Two concept were developed to suit local conditions.

And then Das and Pathak sat and waited for a break that would help them take their solution to the world out there.

Rendezvous at Arrah:

The break never came. After a three year wait, Pathak with a family to feed, went back to selling grandpa's home-cure bottles. But the Sulabh obsession never left him. Walking the streets with a 15 kg load of bottles slung on his shoulders and an arm, he rued the five years in Patna chasing government help.

In the small town of Arrah, Bihar, the break finally came. Noticing a tiny sign that read, 'Municipal Officer', Pathak walked in and began to retail the Sulabh idea. He had an order within minutes. The officer was an enthusiastic convert and at once advanced the princely sum of Rs.500 for two public toilets. Thus it came about that India's first two-pit, maintenance-free privy was built in Arrah in 1973 by Pathak using local masons.

From Arrah also, emerged the Sulabh business model, that holds good till this day: Sulabh will insist on advance payments but will seek no subsidies, donations, loans or grants. Orders followed in quick succession and soon made the entire Sulabh operation self-sustaining.

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