India girl who took dad to the police over a toilet

A seven-year-old Indian girl went to the police after her father broke his promise to build her a toilet.

Hanifa Zaara told the police in a letter that her father had “cheated” her and should therefore be arrested. She said that she was “ashamed” to defecate outside.

Many Indians do not have access to toilets and nearly 500 million defecate in the open, according to Unicef. Even where toilets have been built, many do not use them.

Hanifa who lives with her parents in Ambur, a town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, has never had a toilet in her house. She told BBC Tamil’s Krithiika Kannan that a few people in her neighbourhood did have the facility. So she asked her father to build a toilet in their house too. She was in nursery at the time.

“I was ashamed to go outside and I felt bad when people looked at me,” Hanifa said. And she was especially motivated after learning in school about the health problems caused by open defecation. In her letter to the police, she wrote that her father told her he would build the toilet if she topped her class.

“I have been topping my class since nursery,” she wrote. “I am in the second grade now. And he is still only saying he will do it. This is a form of cheating, so please arrest him.” If not arrest, she added, she wanted the police to at least force him to provide her with a signed letter saying by when he would get her the toilet.

Her father, Ehsanullah, told BBC Tamil he had actually begun building the toilet, but did not have enough money to complete it. He is currently unemployed.

Hanifa’s efforts have won the sympathy and support of the police. “Her complaint was very honest, so we tried to resolve the issue,” officer Valamarthi said.

She alerted district officials who now plan to raise money to build more than 500 toilets in Hanifa’s neighbourhood.

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