The latest National Statistical Office (NSO) survey on sanitation was released on November 23, 2019.
The NSO survey was carried out between July and December 2018, with a reference date of October 1, 2019.
- The survey debunked the claims of an open defecation-free or ODF India made by the Centre’s flagship Swachh Bharat scheme, although it did record great progress in toilet access and use in rural areas.
- The survey showed that about 71% of rural households had access to toilets at a time the Centre was claiming 95%.
- The 71% access to toilets was still a significant improvement over the situation during the last survey period in 2012, when only 40% of rural households had access to toilets.
- It said 95% of people with access to toilets in rural India used them regularly, indicating that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s efforts to change behaviour have borne fruit. Only 3.5% of those with toilet access in rural India said that they never used them. This was aided by the fact that water was available around the toilet in more than 95% of cases.
- More than 50% of rural Indian households with toilets had septic tanks, while another 21% used single pits, both of which need to be cleaned and produce faecal sludge that must be disposed of safely. Only 10% of toilets were built with the twin leach pit system pushed by the Swachh Bharat scheme, which safely composts waste on its own without any need for cleaning or disposal.
What it means?
- While the NSO’s statistics on toilet usage are also encouraging, the data indicates that the next big challenge may lie in the disposal of waste.
- The data should be treated as a fresh assessment of how much ground is yet to be covered. The data could help the government review performance in States such as Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, where the lack of toilets is reported to be higher than the national average.
- The survey also provides an opportunity to review other social determinants such as education, housing and water supply which have strong influence on adoption of sanitation.
- Sustained work to eliminate black spots and a massive urban programme are critical to ending open defecation and universalising toilet access.