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Toilets and the classes
Extensive new evidence shows that building toilets alone will not eliminate open defecation in India as not everyone who has access to toilets, especially men, believes that it’s important to use it. Not having a toilet remains the major problem in sanitation; 60 percent of rural households and just under 10 per cent of urban households in India do not have access to a toilet, according to new official data from the 68th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) data. But, even amongst households with access to toilets, some open defecation exists. According to the NSS data, two per cent of rural households with access to toilets do not use them. However, researchers Diane Coffey, Aashish Gupta, et. al., of the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE) found that 7 per cent of households with access to a toilet were not using them. When they looked at households where at least one family member was not using the toilet, the number swelled to 18 per cent. This number is being driven up by men, who, in all three surveys, reported lower toilet use than women.

Such ‘personal preferences’ are overwhelmingly the most common reason for not using toilets despite access seen in both NSS and RICE data. It has been found by NSS data that both access to toilets, and the actual use of the toilets, lags amongst Hindu households. The figure for households without toilets is 47 percent for Hindu households as against 31 per cent for Muslims and 16 per cent for Christians and Sikhs. Amongst Hindus, Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and then OBCs have lower access to toilets. A similar pattern exists for the actual use of toilets among religious groups.

Arghyam, a Bangalore-based water and sanitation group, reported similar data in a study of 45 gram panchayats in Davangere, Karnataka; while half the households had toilets, over a third of them reported that at least one family member did not use the toilet. The government is aware of this issue. But, despite the existence of a national campaign to build subsidised toilets for rural Indians since as far back as 1986, a toilet remains something that money buys. Access to toilets rises systematically by class, the NSS data shows. The 68th round of the NSS data focused on access to toilets and the use of toilets amongst a nationally representative sample of over 1 lakh households between 2011 and 2012 data, which was recently made public.

According to Dean Spears, health economist with the Delhi School of Economics and RICE nearly 80 per cent of all the households with toilets that were surveyed had constructed their toilets purely with private funds. Diane Coffey, Aashish Gupta et. al. of RICE surveyed 3,200 households over five States. As a result, Spears and his colleagues have been arguing for cheaper, more basic toilets of the sort widely used in Bangladesh to be promoted in rural India. Arghyam’s research has shown that people widely believe that toilet pits will fill up quickly, and find the thought of cleaning this waste distasteful.

Source: The Hindu

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