NSO Report Throws Light on ‘Open Defecation Free’ Rural India

NSO’s report says that a household has access to a toilet if majority of its members use it.

2 min read
Representational image.

More than a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that rural India is now Open Defecation Free (ODF), a recent NSO report says that around 71.3 percent of rural households and 96.2 percent of urban households have access to toilets, taking into account survey's conducted between July and December last year.

According to NSO's report ‘Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Conditions in India’, a household has access to a toilet if a majority of its members have the facility of using it, Business Standard reported.

The Business Standard report adds that in 2014, the NDA government had set a target of 2 October this year – Mahatma Gandhi's 150th anniversary – for making rural India open defecation free.

The NSO report, according to Business Standard, presented two data sets – households having access to toilets and benefits received from government schemes on sanitation. This, according to the daily, was at the heart of disagreement between the government and NSO, leading to a delay in the report's release.

The report says that nearly half of the rural households in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha had no access to toilets in 2018. In 2012, the number was 75 percent and 81 percent in UP and Odisha.

However, since 2012, the number of toilet access has gone up significantly. Overall, about 20 percent of rural households were open defecation free last year, as compared to 63 percent in 2012.

Now, the NSO report says only 17.4 percent of rural households reported receiving benefits from government schemes for building sanitation facilities in the last three years. About 80 percent of the rural households reported to have not received benefits from sanitation-related government schemes.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which was also a part of the working group, has expressed concern over the report's findings.

The ministry, according to Business Standard, had said in May that the proportion of households with access to toilets in rural India “was on the lower side” and should be re-examined, saying that the report did not match administrative data.

According to the ministry’s own data, national rural sanitation coverage went up from 39 percent in 2014 to 98 percent until January this year. The news report says that the working group had no problems with the report and asked the ministry to verify its own data.  

“There may be an inherent tendency of the respondent to give a negative reply on the presumption or expectation that a negative reply on benefits received and access to facilities, may help them to get additional benefits through government schemes. This respondent bias is difficult to isolate and measure using conventional survey techniques,” the NSO report was quoted by Business Standard as saying.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) hit out at the Centre, calling it a "propaganda spin."

"Yet another propaganda spin of Modi government debunked. The latest NSO survey shows that as against the claim of 95 per cent toilet access in rural India, only 71 per cent had (it). The definition of such access is also dubious. Major BJP-ruled states showed large gaps," tweeted CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.

(With inputs from Business Standard.)

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