US Northwestern university environmental engineering graduate Anoop Jain, who started a project for greater toilet access to the residents of a Bihar village, is one of two Indians among the four finalists for a $1,00,000 global citizen award.
The award will be presented next week at a function in the iconic central park of the US city of New York next week, to be attended by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Apart from Jain, Swapnil Chaturvedi is the other Indian finalist for the Waislitz global citizen award which is presented to an individual who meets the criteria of global citizenship, impact, innovation and potential.
The winner of the contest will be announced at the global citizen festival in New York on on September 27, which is expected to be attended by Modi and a slew of other global leaders.
Other VVIP guests expected to be present include UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
According to the organizers of the event, Modi will highlight the need to bring an end to open defecation in India.
Jain and Chaturvedi have been shortlisted for the award for their efforts to improve sanitation facilities and increase public access to toilets.
Chaturvedi is the founder of 'Samagra Sanitation' which focuses on providing sanitation services to the urban poor. Since March 2013, 'Samagra' is implementing its sanitation engagement platform called 'Loo Rewards' in two urban slums of Pune.
Jain founded 'Humanure Power' (HP) in Bihar in 2011 that has been building community sanitation facilities at Sukhpur village in Supaul district of north Bihar.
'Humanure Power' opened its pilot community sanitation facility on July 10 this year with 20 toilets total - 10 for men and 10 for women. Since then, "it has already over 17,000 users, while hygienically disposing of 8 tons of human excreta".
Utilizing a $30,000 award won in Dell's Social Innovation Challenge in 2012, Humanure has set out to build community blocks of toilets that convert human waste into energy, charging 12-volt batteries for household use.
"Humanure Power continues to fight alongside communities to end outdoor defecation as a key step in an ongoing struggle for health equity and social and economic justice", said a note published on its website last month.
The Waislitz global citizen award seeks "to honour an individual who embodies and exemplifies the values and practices of a global citizen, has substantial record of making lasting changes and opportunities for the world's poor and brings new thinking to overcome the challenge of ending poverty".
The other two finalists are David Auerbach, who co-founded 'Sanergy' which builds low-cost, high-quality sanitation facilities and Nargis Shirazi, founder of the Wo-man Foundation, which works towards improving sexual, reproductive health and rights of women in her home country Uganda.
The function on September 27 will be hosted by Hollywood actors Hugh Jackman, Jessica Alba and Katie Holmes and will have performances by American rapper Jay Z and singer Carrie Underwood.
(With agency inputs)