Social activist and founder of 'Sulabh International' Bindeshwar Pathak, who campaigned extensively to alleviate the plight of manual scavengers, died at a Delhi hospital due to cardiac arrest, said a close aide. He was 80.
Bindeshwar Pathak hoisted the the national flag in the morning of 15th August on the occasion of Independence Day and collapsed soon after that.
He was rushed to AIIMS Delhi. A source at the hospital said the social reformer was declared brought dead at 1.42 pm.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation said, "Founder Sulabh Sanitation, Social Reform and Human Rights Movement, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is no more. He died of cardiac arrest at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi."
"He was rushed to the hospital after he complained of uneasiness in the midst of Independence Day celebrations at the campus of Sulabh, Palam-Dabri Road, New Delhi," it said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the social reformer's death.
"The passing away of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak Ji is a profound loss for our nation. He was a visionary who worked extensively for societal progress and empowering the downtrodden.
"Bindeshwar Ji made it his mission to build a cleaner India. He provided monumental support to the Swachh Bharat Mission. During our various conversations, his passion towards Swachhata was always visible," PM Modi said in a post on X.
"His work will continue to inspire several people. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time. Om Shanti," he said, sharing two pictures of him with Pathak.
Sulabh has constructed nearly 1.3 million household toilets and 54 million government toilets using cheap, two-pit technology.
Apart from construction of toilets, the organisation has led a movement to discourage manual cleaning of human waste.
Lawmakers have passed several laws aiming to stamp out the age-old practice of manual scavenging, the latest in 2013. But many scavengers are still used through subcontractors.
The men are called "manual scavengers" because they mainly scrape the waste with their bare hands without any protective gear or masks, a practice Bindeshwar Pathak termed "demeaning".
He is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.