More than half rural India still opts for open defecation: NSSO

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We are a nation full of people who live in immaculate homes where we bathe twice a day, but think nothing of littering public spaces, spitting on walls, dumping garbage in the open and urinating and defecating in public, because we do not consider those spaces as ours.

Open defecation continues to be high despite decades of sustained economic growth and despite the obvious and glaring health hazards. As per the  recently released Swachhta Status Report by the National Sample Survey (NSS) Office about staggering 52.1 % of the rural population of the country or some 500 million people defecate in the open.

Globally, India continues to be the country with the highest number of people (597 million people) practising open defecation. The situation is so bad that open defecation is more common in India than in that are poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Burundi and Rwanda.

About one billion people, or 15 percent of the global population, practice open defecation. The other countries with the highest number of people openly defecating are Indonesia (54 million people), followed by Pakistan (41 million people), Nigeria (39 million), Ethiopia (34 million), and Sudan (17 million).

Key facts revealed from the NSS report

⇒ The survey by NSSO was to track the government’s flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The survey estimates that 52.1 per cent of people in rural India choose open defecation compared to 7.5 per cent in urban India. In the survey, 45.3 per cent rural households reported having a sanitary toilet, while in urban areas, the figure stands at 88.8 per cent.

⇒ According to the NSS report, while 87.9 per cent of the urban households were found to have access to water for use in toilets, only 42.5 per cent rural households had this facility so to improve this situation the incentive for individual toilet under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) has been increased from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000, to provide for water, including for storing water for hand-washing and cleaning.

⇒ The lowest percentage of households having sanitary toilets was reported in Jharkhand (18.8 per cent), Chhattisgarh (21.2 per cent) and Odisha (26.3 per cent). The States with the highest numbers of sanitary toilets were Sikkim (98.2 per cent), Kerala (97.6 per cent) and Mizoram (96.2 per cent).

⇒ According to NSS data, 13.1 per cent of the villages and 42 per cent urban wards have community toilets. However, they were not being used in 1.7 per cent villages and 1.6 per cent urban wards. Also, in 22.6 per cent of the villages and 8.6 per cent urban wards, community toilets were not being cleaned.

⇒ Around 40% of Indian population lives in the states of - Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. They also account for 45% of households without a toilet. Also, every third perosn  who defecate in the open live in these five states.

Why rural population still prefer not to use toilets, even if they are available?

More than half rural India still opts for open defecation

⇒ For majority of the population it's a daily ritual and often something they do even when public facilities are available. The main reason for open defecation is behaviour and mindset of the people who have continued the practice for centuries.

⇒ Even the households with working toilets continue to defecate in the open as most of the people in rural India find it pleasurable, comfortable, or convenient some look it  as an opportunity to take a morning walk, see their fields and take in the fresh air while some regard open defecation as part of a wholesome, healthy virtuous life.

⇒ Toilet use has not increased with prosperity for example let us consider Haryana, which is one of India's richest states, but still  people in the villages continue to defecate in the open. Also, men living in households with toilets are more likely to defecate in the open than women.

Comment : Every year, 200,000 children in India die from diseases caused by fecal contamination. Although open defecation has been reduced by 31 percent since 1990, about 300 million women and girls in India still have no other choice. Open Defecation is one of the cause for Rape and Disease.

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