By VAISHNAVEE SHARMA
NEW DELHI (AP) — Local officials are blocking a toilet-building charity’s effort to rename a north Indian village after U.S. President Donald Trump, the group said.
District officials did not immediately return calls for comment, but were quoted by the Press Trust of India news agency as saying the renaming effort was just a fundraising stunt for the charity.
Residents of the dusty village of Maroda worried they wouldn’t receive free toilets if they abandoned the new name “Trump Sulabh Village,” the charity said. But it assured them that it would continue its campaign to build commodes for each home.
“As long as they let us, we’re going to keep this work going,” said Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak. None of the funding is coming from Trump or the U.S., but Pathak said he hoped the renaming attempt would bring attention to their efforts to improve sanitation across India.
Some 60 percent of India’s 1.25 billion people still defecate in the open.
Pathak said authorities in the surrounding district of Mewat objected to the charity’s plan to rename the village as part of a plan to make it the first in the state of Haryana to be free of open defecation.
“The real issue is that the area had already been declared open-defecation free,” though a survey by the charity found that only 40 of the village’s 160 homes had toilets, Pathak said.
“When we brought attention to the lack of toilets,” he said, “they asked us to remove the signs” declaring its new name as Trump Sulabh Village.
Most of the villagers who attended a renaming ceremony on June 23 said they did not know who Trump was, but were happy to take on his name if it came with a free toilet.
“Every morning we would go out toward the jungle, or just find any place to sit and do our business,” said villager Hasina, a 45-year-old housewife who like many in India uses only one name.
A new toilet, she said, “is going to be more convenient for us. It is definitely good.”
The Hindi-language word “sulabh” means “accessible” and describes the simple pit toilets the charity builds for free.