This year, the Nobel Peace Prize committee gave us a lovely surprise in awarding an Indian, Kailash Satyarthi, for his role in freeing thousands of children from the shackles of bonded labour and slavery. It is a shame that most Indians had not heard of this amazing personality and his work till he emerged into the spotlight with the award. But how many of us know that there was a second Indian nominee for the prestigious award this year?
Yes, his name is Jockin Arputham and here are 10 things you must learn about this amazing man:
1. He is the president of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, which he founded in the 1970s. It works in around 70 cities in India.
2. Jockin Arputham has worked for more than 40 years in slums and shanty towns in India and around the world.
He has been building representative organizations into powerful partners with governments and international agencies for the betterment of urban living.
3. 67-year old Arputham was born in 1947 in Kolar Gold Fields, in Kolar district of Karnataka.
4. At the age of 16, he moved to Bangalore and started working as a carpenter’s apprentice for a salary of 3 rupees 50 paise a week.
This was so low that he attempted committing suicide.
5. When he was 18 years old, he moved to Mumbai to work as a carpenter.
He settled in Janata Colony, and when the 70,000 inhabitants of the slum were threatened with eviction, he united the community in organizing protests and fighting injustice.
6. It was mosquitoes that decided his career path for him.
When Arputham started his voluntary school for the slum children, he found they were unable to concentrate on their studies as they were being constantly bitten. The problem was that the municipality did not collect garbage from there. To show their protest, he organized a picnic in which he asked the kids to carry newspaper parcel of rubbish and dump it outside the municipal office in Chembur. This brought the municipal officers to their doorstep and they began negotiations with them.
He currently lives in Dharavi slum in Mumbai and has helped build 20,000 (toilet) seats in the city alone.
This has earned him the title of “Toilet Man”.
7. Over the years, Arputham has built 30,000 houses in India, and 1,00,000 houses abroad.
Through various tie-ups with women’s groups and NGOs like Mahila Milan and SPARC, he has helped tens of thousands of urban poor get access to housing and sanitation.
8. He helped found Slum Dwellers International in 1999 for the sharing of ideas and knowledge within slum and shack dweller organizations and federations from over 20 countries around the world.
He is also the current President of SDI.
9. Just a couple of decades ago, slum and pavement dwellers could be evicted summarily because they were seen as encroachers.
Today, largely owing to his efforts, policy recognizes slum residents as valid inhabitants of the city, entitled to compensation and alternative housing.
10. For his remarkable work, he has been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2000,.
He was also awarded an honorary Ph.D. from KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar in 2009, the Padma Shri in 2011, and the Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2014.