4 crore 'missing toilets' raise the stink

Data on 'missing' or 'dead' toilets – that is toilets that exist on paper but not in reality – is a wake-up call for policymakers, says study

trithesh

Trithesh Nandan | November 19, 2013


An unused toilet at a village in Abu Road, Rajasthan, built under the central government’s total sanitation campaign.
Photo: Brajesh Kumar/ representational pic

As politicians from across the spectrum raise the decibel level in the run-up to the elections – in fact, Chhattisgarh is voting in the second phase for its assembly polls even as we write – there is a stink they cannot escape.

While India is generally known as the global capital of open defecation, there is more to this concern. According to the Right to Sanitation Campaign, there are close to 4 crore missing toilets across the country – as the name shows, a missing toilet is a toilet that exists on paper but does not on ground.
The study, significantly titled “In Deep Shit”, was released on Monday – on the eve of World Toilet Day, which is marked on November 19.

“Over 3,75,76,324 (that is 3 crore, 75 lakh, 76 thousand, three hundred and twenty four) toilets are missing from the ground in rural India and in urban spaces. The other (concern) is that hundreds of community toilet complexes (CTCs) are either not built or are dysfunctional,” says the study.

According to the study, the number of missing toilets in some of the less developed states in India is alarming: it is as high as 87 percent in Madhya Pradesh and 78 percent in Uttar Pradesh.

The 2011 census shows that only 31.9 percent households in rural India have access to sanitation.

The study found that Jharkhand tops the list of states lacking proper sanitation, with 77 percent homes lacking toilet facilities. The corresponding figure is 76.6 percent for Orissa and 75.8 percent in Bihar.

The report also says that nearly half of India’s 1.2 billion people have no toilets at home. “Nearly 77 percent of SCs and 84 percent of STs do not have toilets at home,” the study highlighted.

“Where have they gone and who is responsible for these missing toilets?” Rajesh Upadhyay, executive director, National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), remarked at a media conference in New Delhi to unveil the report.

“Out of 6 million villages in the country, only 25,000 are free from the practice of open defecation,” the report said.

The missing toilets have cost for the Indian economy, too. According to World Bank figures circa 2011, India loses approximately $53.8 billion (>6.4% of India’s GDP, as of 2006) due to increased health costs, productivity losses, and reduced tourism revenue due to inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
“The data on the ‘missing toilets’ or ‘dead toilets’ is a wake-up call for one and all and this must be addressed urgently,” the study says.

Rajni Tilak, convener of Rashtriya Dalit Mahila Andolan, said: “At present, the government has a sanitation budget that is below 1 percent (of GDP). We demand an increase in the budget allocation for sanitation. It is also the responsibility of the government to provide sanitation and community toilet infrastructure that the poor can access.

“Only 17 percent people from tribal communities and 20 percent of SC/ST category have access to sauchalaya (toilet) facilities.”

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