Indians enjoy a better standard of living than a decade ago but they are spending more on TV sets and mobile phones rather than sanitation, a decadal census of household amenities and assets released on Tuesday revealed.
Registrar general C Chandramouli — the man who oversaw the mammoth door-to-door census — said the big message was that quality of living had shown a significant improvement.
More people have access to permanent houses, electricity supply, cellphones and ground water, which is considered safer. But the standard of sanitation could have been better.
Chandramouli said the reason people didn’t invest in toilets probably had more to do with priorities rather than money. “It is not a question of investments in the sector but of the mind-set that needs to change,” he said, pointing out that people seem to have the money to spend on TV sets and mobiles but not on toilets.
Other than sanitation, however, the decadal census presented a positive story, he said.
Mihir Shah, planning commissioner member in-charge of rural development, admitted that the approach on providing sanitation was flawed. “We have tried to build toilets for all without ensuring quality resulting in many of them remaining unused,” he said.
Learning from past mistakes, the government will adopt a new approach for providing civic amenities in the 12th five year plan starting from next financial year. Shah said women will be focus of the new sanitation drive and expressed confidence that it will bring a “dramatic” change.
Despite high decadal Gross Domestic Production growth rate of about 7.3%, about 45% of homes in rural India still do not have an electric connection as compared to just 7% in urban areas. The census report also said that 62.5% rural population continue to use fire-wood as fuel for cooking and 44.8% people’s mode of transport is cycle while computer with internet facility has penetrated into country's just 3.1% population.