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Toilet Charity Gets Indian Village to Take on Trump's Name

by Vaishnavee Sharma
Friday Jun 23, 2017

MARODA, India - A toilet charity is leading an effort to rename a tiny, north Indian village after President Donald Trump, saying the gesture is meant to honor relations with the U.S. and draw support for better sanitation in India.

The new name, Trump Sulabh Village, is not official, and so will not appear on maps. The charity's name is Sulabh International after the Hindi word for "accessible," which is meant to describe the simple, pit toilets it builds for free across a country that has too few.

Many of the 400 villagers said they had no idea who Trump is. But they are delighted that their village elders agreed to the promotional gimmick because it also means they will receive free toilets in each of the village's 60 or so mud-built houses. None of the funding for the new toilets is coming from Trump or the U.S.

"I don't understand why they couldn't name it after our own prime minister," said construction worker Sajid Hussain. Still, he's happy for the toilet-building initiative and hopes it is followed with funding for education, electricity and other improvements.

For an inauguration attended by media Friday, organizers coached villagers to shout "Zindabad!" which means "Long live!" each time they shouted Trump's name. The ceremony was also staged just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to Washington, D.C., for a sit-down with Trump.

The charity's founder, Bindeshwar Pathak, acknowledged that naming the village after Trump was a stunt aimed at drawing more attention - and hopefully funding - for their efforts to improve sanitation across India.

"Trump is the president of the leading nation in the world, so that's why I chose him," he said.

The fact that there are few toilets in the dusty village of Maroda, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of New Delhi, is not unusual. More than 60 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people still defecate in the open, and dysentery kills hundreds of millions of children every year.

"Women in the village in particular suffer without toilets," said Poonam, a housewife who like many Indian uses only one name. She hopes the campaign to rename the village draws attention to the dangers women face in having to venture into forests for bathroom privacy, putting them at risk of sexual assault. Some like Poonam are also forced to drop out of school once they begin menstruating.

The charity aims to build toilets in about 600,000 more villages across the country.

Meanwhile, Maroda is hoping to become the first village in the state of Haryana to eliminate open defecation altogether.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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