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An ‘open defecation free’ village in Haryana may bear name of Trump soon

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-06-2017 Nikita Doval

Quite a few properties across the world bear the name of US President Donald Trump. From residential towers to hotels, and golf courses to even a winery (in Charlottsville, Virginia). Now, if Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International, a social service organization that works in the field of sanitation, has his way, a village in Haryana’s Mewat will also bear the name of Trump very soon. The specifics of this grand plan are yet to be decided, such as which village it will be but it will be open defecation free and will hopefully encourage the Indian-American community to contribute more towards sanitation and cleanliness in India. Or at least that’s what the stated objective was when Pathak made the announcement at a community event organized in the suburbs of Washington DC. Should we be coming to any sort of conclusions about the gesture, seeing that it came on the heels of an announcement about a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump in Washington on 26 June.

The 2011 census had revealed that 67% of households in rural India practice open defecation. There has been some progress since then. In 2015, WHO and the UN Children’s Fund released a report titled Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment which listed India among 16 countries that have reduced open defecation rates. India’s reduction was 31 per cent, which according to the report represents 394 million people. In 2016 Haryana chief Minister M.L. Khattar had even announced that his state will be open defecation free by 2017. But what purpose will the re-naming of a village serve and how will it contribute to promoting sanitation remains to be seen.

No one can fault the work done by Sulabh in promoting sanitation in both urban and rural areas. In fact Pathak was even awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1991 but does this also bestow on him the right to re-name villages? It’s a question that is yet to be answered. How will it ensure sanitation levels in the village continue to be what they are and that people continue using toilets as opposed to defecating in the open remains to be seen also. But one place where this decision has been greeted with great enthusiasm is in the comment section of the different newspaper reports with several puns related to body waste as well as jokes.

However, if a village is re-named in Haryana, then the US President will be in rather august company. A 2013 Indian Express report stated that Lord Ram had 3,626 villages named after him while Lord Krishna was a close second at 3,309. The village will also not be the first one to boast of a strange name as villages in other parts of the world boast of names like F*****g, Intercourse and even Hell. Trump pales in comparison to this.

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