Indians have better access to banks than toilets.
Badagaon Jagir is a village of 300 households in Gwalior district. Thanks to the ultra-small branch of the Central Bank, opened under Madhya Pradesh’s financial inclusion model, the village boasts of complete banking coverage with over 1,200 accounts.
When it comes to toilets, however, the picture isn’t quite as flowery. About half of Badagaon Jagir’s population still goes to the fields when nature calls.
This story of this village, however, is not unique. Though the country has made impressive strides in effecting financial inclusion of the poor, basic sanitation is something it is struggling hard to achieve.
As much as 59% of Indian households avail banking services, the latest compilation of India in Figures-2012 shows. In comparison, only 47% of the households have a latrine, and as much as half lack drainage facilities.
Census 2011, on the other hand, showed that the number of mobile phone connections surpassing toilets by leaps and bounds – standing at 63% of the population.
While the recent comparison of temples and toilets by minister for drinking water and sanitation Jairam Ramesh may have kicked up a storm, policy makers and activists admit that the open defecation issue has received little attention on the planning board.
Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that more Indians (47%) have television sets than water connections at their homes (43.5%).
Noting the average Indian’s fascination with television and the cinema, the ministry roped in actress Vidya Balan to play the role of ambassador for a tabooed subject — toilets and sanitation.
Last week, Ramesh launched a 2000-KM Nirmal Bharat Yatra passing through five states that fare poorly in matters relating to sanitation – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
There were 28,000 nirmal grams – open defecation-free village panchayats – till 2011-end, compared to over 2.4 lakh panchayats in the country.