Nearly 17 million women in West Bengal do not have access to proper latrine facilities and are either forced to defecate in the open or avail of public latrines.
“About 41% households in West Bengal do not have latrine facilities. This means around 35 million people including 17 million females defecate either in open or in public latrines,” said Dipak Ghosh, director of census operations in West Bengal.
He was speaking at a discussion session organised by the census directorate in collaboration with the UNICEF to highlight data related to housing, household amenities and assets for West Bengal and their linkages to child survival, development and growth.
Among these while 38.6% of the population defecate in the open, 2.5% at least have the option to avail of public latrines.
“While Purulia is the worst case scenario where more than 87% of the population lacks latrine facilities and are forced to defecate in the open, it is followed by Bankura, Birbhum and Uttar Dinajpur where more than 70% of the population in each of these districts are forced to defecate in the open,” Ghosh said.
The census figures also point out to some other inhuman facts such as more than one lakh thirty thousand people are still dependant on other human beings to remove their excreta, while excreta or more than 72,000 are ‘removed’ by animals such as pigs.
More than 68% of the households in the state do not have drainage connectivity. This percentage is even higher in the rural areas where nearly 85% of the households have to do without any drainage facilities.
“This is important in the light of the government of West Bengal’s commitment to have an Open Defecation Free State by 2015. Even though a commitment has been made, the task seems to be impossible,” said demographer and population management expert Devendra Kothari.
More than 64% of the people in West Bengal have no access to bathrooms. Another 8.7% of the population has access to bathrooms but without roofs. The number of people having no bathroom facilities is as high as 10% even in a metropolitan city like Kolkata.
This figure is much higher than the national average, as across the country only around 42% of the population do not have access to bathroom facilities. According to Lori Calvo, state chief of UNICEF, “Around 51% of the people do not wash their hand after using the toilet.”