Nearly half of India’s 1.2 billion people have no toilet at home, but more people own a mobile phone, according to the latest census data.
Only 46.9% of the 246.6 million households have lavatories while 49.8% defecate in the open. The remaining 3.2% use public toilets.
Census 2011 data on houses, household amenities and assets reveal that 63.2% of homes have a telephone. More than half the population – 53.2% – have a mobile phone.
About 77% of homes in the eastern state of Jharkhand have no toilet facilities, while the figure is 76.6% for Orissa and 75.8% in Bihar. All three are among India’s poorest states with huge populations which live on less than a dollar a day. In Jammu & Kashmir 8.9% of households still have their latrines emptied by manual scavengers.
“Open defecation continues to be a big concern for the country as almost half of the population do it,” Registrar General and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli said while releasing the latest data.
“Cultural and traditional reasons and a lack of education are the prime reasons for this unhygienic practice. We have to do a lot in these fronts,” he said.
A union minister had recently said women in rural areas demand mobile phones, not toilets. This was vigorously denied by a 20-year-old tribal woman from Madhya Pradesh Anita Narre. “A toilet is more significant in the life of a woman than a mobile because the former gives them dignity”, she said. Anita Narre grabbed the international headlines at the beginning of the year when she was awarded for leading a “sanitation revolution”. Two days after her marriage in 2011 she left her in-laws house and refused to return until they had built a toilet.