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friday :: february 27, 2004
shit and civilization

One can say that development in civilisation and sanitation have been co-terminus. The more developed was the society, the more sanitised it became and vice versa.

Toilet is part of history of human hygiene which is a critical chapter in the history of human civilisation and which cannot be isolated to be accorded unimportant position in history. Toilet is a critical link between order and disorder and between good and bad environment.

In my own country i.e. India, how can any one ignore the subject of toilet when the society is faced with human excretions of the order of 900 million litres of urine and 135 million kilogrammes of faecal matter per day with totally inadequate system of its collection and disposal. The society, thus, has a constant threat of health hazards and epidemics. As many as 600 out of 900 million people do open defecation. Sewerage facilities are available to no more than 30 per cent of population in urban areas and only 3 per cent of rural population has access to pour flush latrines.

Seeing this challenge, I think the subject of toilet is as important if not more than other social challenges like literacy, poverty, education and employment. >from *History of toilets*. The paper presented by Dr. Bindeswar Pathak, Ph.D., D.Litt., Founder, Sulabh Movement at International Symposium on Public Toilets held in Hong Kong on May 25-27, 1995

The Sulabh technology has liberated so far 37,500 scavengers from the demeaning practice of physically cleaning and carrying human excreta. Indian scavengers transports the excrement of his fellow beings in 93% houses in villages. There are no latrines there. They carry the excrement of their fellow-beings in big metal trays. Approximately 600,000 men and women earn their livelihood from this work. They are known as 'Bhangis' and they occupy the lowest position in the caste system. They are the "untouchables". A cow is given more respect than they. At some places, they have to carry on their work at night, so that the aesthetic sentiments of their employers are not disturbed. One who has touched a 'Bhangi' must immediately take bath. Earlier, the excrement cleaner was supposed to wear a small bell around his neck and stamp heavily the ground with a stick so that the people around him should know that the 'Bhangi' is coming and everyone would make their children go inside their houses. Earlier, the 'Bhangis' did the menial job with their bare hands, but today they use either a broom or a small shovel. >from *Sulabh International site*. Views of Press & People.

related context
sulabh international
> shit and civilization: our ambivalent relationship to ordure in the city, culture and the psyche. our societies are, quite literally, founded on shit. civilization means living in cities and cities are confronted, in a way more dispersed settlements are not, with heaps of garbage and ordure. ancient cities are now identified by the mounds raised above the surrounding terrain. cities have always left the poor to scavenge and to live from re-cycling garbage.
> cities built on fertile lands affect climate. u.s. cities have been built on the most fertile soils, lessening contributions of these lands to earth's food web and human agriculture. february 11, 2004

dig your own shit: can you?

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