A village that is being developed in Rajasthan's Mewat region will be named after US president Donald Trump. Yes, you heard it right.
According to Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, a village will be named after the US president to "give a fillip to India-US relationship". A PTI report says he made the announcement at a community event organised in the suburbs of Washington DC.
Although people sitting in India, including those who are still engaged in manual scavenging, have no idea how would that deepen India-US ties or change the sanitary situation in India, or the apathy towards safai karmacharis, the news was received with some questions and a whole lot of confusion.
A simple but most vital questions WHY???— Farheen Arshad #MI (@FarheenArshad13) June 13, 2017
Will they call it Orange 'County' .. ????— gavish george (@gavishgeorge) June 13, 2017
The efforts of Sulabh International are well-known in the field of sanitation and environment, but how is Trump related to all that work has whipped up a mystery. And who is Pathak (other than Sulabh International founder)?
Humanist, reformer, Modi fan
The founder of Sulabh International, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, is often described by the media as a great humanist and social reformer.
Reporting from Washington, PTI's Lalit K Jha described him as a "top Indian sociologist and social worker" in yesterday's news report, which was carried across media platforms in India.
According to Sulabh International's website, the non-profit voluntary social organisation founded in 1970 by Pathak, is dedicated to the Gandhian ideology of emancipation of scavengers.
Pathak, 73, is mostly known for providing low-cost, eco-friendly sanitation through his Sulabh movement. He, the website says, modified and developed a technology of two-pit pour-flush toilet better known as Sulabh shauchalayas. The construction and maintenance of public toilets on "pay-and-use basis" was also introduced by Sulabh in India. So far, the NGO has reportedly built toilets for around 1.3 million households and managing 8,000 public toilets across the country.
For his efforts, Pathak was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1991, among a long list of other accolades.
Last year, he was appointed the brand ambassador of Swachh Rail Mission and also named a member of the Central Authority of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
But why Trump
His impressive credentials aside, what came as surprising about Pathak's announcement on Trump village is if a social activist has the authority to name/rename a village.
The announcement came just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet the US President in Washington on June 26. This will be PM Modi’s first meeting with Donald Trump after he became the US president in January this year.
Also, the rationale behind the decision to name it after Trump is worth questioning.
How well do the people living in the unspecified village in Mewat know who president Trump is? Not to mention if his name will inspire the villagers to lead a more hygienic lifestyle.
Of course, it would make Trump happy to know that a village in India is being called after him, but other than that what other purpose does it serve?
To improve India-US ties, Trump clearly is a very odd choice considering the kind of response his name evokes in his own country (perhaps the American president's detractors would have found it more apt had a toilet been named after Trump).
Trump though is known for his penchant for naming things/places/business entities after himself. According to this report he has as many as 222 companies named after himself — Trump University, Trump Taj Mahal (casino which he no longer owns), Trump Indiana Inc., Trump Scotland Member Inc., Trump China Development LLC., and modelling agency, Trump Model Management, etc.
But even that long list doesn't explain why a man who has no association with India, or has not even visited the country (as president), or have anything to do with promoting sanitation, or the environment (remember Paris climate change accord), should have the honour of having a village named after him. On the contrary, the US president's proposed changes to American immigration rules (H1B Visa) has freaked out India's tech industry and his "travel ban" has created much hue and cry.
Of course, when PM Modi meets Trump, the two leaders are expected to discuss concerns over the changes in H1B visa norms besides bilateral issues on the agenda.
But will naming a village make Trump reconsider his decision? Well, unlikely. And even if it does, was it scripted among India's official "overtures" towards the US?
However, such "goodwill gestures" are often conveyed by government spokesperson, not private citizens notwithstanding their close ties to the ruling dispensation. For those who didn't know, the social reformer also happens to be a big fan of PM Modi (nothing wrong with that, though) and all his schemes (not just Swachh Bharat campaign, if you thought so) — a fact that was confirmed by a video featured on Sulabh International website's homepage.
In March, it posted a video on YouTube of a 7 minute-35-second song written/composed by Pathak that literally sings just paeans of the PM, whom he calls the "Son of India", and his schemes — encapsulating demonetisation, Ujjwala Yojna, LPG, Jan Dhan Yojna, Swachh Bharat, Yoga, Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.
Says pretty much everything. Isn't it?
"Yeh desh prem hain, desh prem hain, desh prem hain/
Bharat ka sar ooncha kiya, woh bharat ka lal hain/
Duniya ko taqqat bata diya, yeh Modi ji ka kamal hain/
Woh Manav nahin Maha manav hain, gyan ka usme sagar hain/
Yeh desh prem hain, desh prem hain."
You can watch the full video below.