Nobel Peace Prize Nominee - Fusion - WeRIndia

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Why don’t we honour our heroes till the world does it? We have lauded Kailash Satyarthi—and rightly so—after he won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. But very few know—or even care—that this year, there was another amazing man who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize–Jockin Arputham, President of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, which he founded in the 1970s. Today, he works in 70 cities in India.

Why haven’t we talked much about the nominee? He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2000, an honorary Ph.D. from KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar, in 2009 and the Padma Shri in 2011, apart from the Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2014. Yet, he has not been highlighted by the media or by the government.

Arputham has built up awesome representative organizations and made them powerful partners with governments and international agencies. Currently, he lives in a Dharavi slum in Mumbai, and has helped to build 20,000 toilet seats in the city alone. He is called the “Toilet Man”.

Born in that stupendous year of 1947, in Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka, he moved to Bangalore at 16 and began to work as a carpenter’s apprentice for a princely sum of Rs 3.50 every week. The low rate depressed him enough to attempt committing suicide, but finally, he pulled himself around.

At the age of 18, he moved to Mumbai and began as a carpenter at Janata Colony. When the 70,000 slum-dwellers were threatened, he just organized them to protest and rebel.

In a voluntary school started for slum children, he found that they were unable to concentrate due to mosquitoes. The municipality just did not collect garbage! Hence, he organized a picnic in which he asked children to carry newspaper parcels of rubbish and dump it outside the municipal office in Chembur. This brought the municipal officers to their doorstep and they began to negotiate.

Over the years, Arputham has built 30,000 houses in India, and 1,00,000 houses abroad. By networking with women’s groups and NGOs like Mahila Milan and SPARC, he helped tens of thousands of urban poor to access clean housing and sanitation.

He also helped to found the Slum Dwellers’ International in 1999 so that they could share ideas and knowledge within slum and shack dweller organizations and federations from over 20 countries around the world. He is the current President of SDI.

Just a couple of decades ago, slum and pavement dwellers could be thrown out as encroachers. But today, thanks to his efforts, the government recognizes that slum dwellers too are valid residents of the city.

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