To build a toilet is easy but to convince people to build toilets is the real task. As you know software is more important than hardware said Ishwar Patel.
When Ishwar Patel was 12 years old he started volunteering with Gandhi’s Sewadal. At time he had observed the taboo that was holding the community of manual scavengers who used to gather human waste. One of the most marginalised and exploited communities in our country are these night soil men. Ishwar decided to deliberately dedicate his life towards improving the sanitary conditions of India and also he decided to eradicate the system of untouchability, which is still prevalent in some parts of India.
There are more than 2.6 million people globally even today who do not use toilets. River Ganges has about 1.1 million litres of raw sewage which every minute is being dumped into it. This number could have been even more higher, if Ishwar wouldn’t have been working on this noble cause of building toilets. Across the riverine bank through the ‘Safai Vidyalaya’ initiative at the Gandhi Ashram he built over 2,00,000 toilets. He helped around 118 organisations to launch the work of elevating the sanitation standards all across the country.
Ishwar Patel’s decisions were based on rationality and a thorough analysis. He conducted a study on the habits of rural Indian and accordingly designed a unique toilet system which would serve the common people’s needs while keeping in mind the hygiene conditions. He, observed that the women in the village did not use the four walled toilets. And that women together walked long distances where they could also spend some time gossiping and talking to each other. After analysing this habit Ishwar introduced toilets with windows and also an “oatlo” which is a community space outside for community interactions.
Outside his office he constructed a “toilet park” which showcased his myriad designs. He said people have rose gardens but, we have toilet gardens. Commercial entrepreneurs made millions by selling his designs, his idea was so brilliant, but he refused to patent them. The reason was that he wanted these toilets to be accessible to even the poorest of the Indians. Patel also served as the president of Gujarat Harijian Sangh.