- The Economic Survey 2017-18 stated sanitation and hygiene quality improved
- Data was collated from Census 2011, Quality Council of India and SBM Gramin
- The survey said safe sanitation translated to better economic performance
New Delhi: The Economic Survey 2017-18, the Ministry of Finance’s annual report on the country’s economic health, highlighted the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s performance and noted that the number of people defecating in the open in rural areas has come down to 25 crore in January 2018, from 55 crore in October 2014, a reduction of 45 per cent. Tabled in Parliament on January 29, the Economic Survey reiterated the established link between sanitation and economic performance and how a healthy sanitation environment boosts the economy, as has been seen across developed countries in the world.
“According to the World Bank estimates, the lack of sanitation facilities costs India over 6 per cent of GDP,” the survey said, adding that as per UNICEF a household in an ODF village in rural India saves Rs 50,000 every year.
The survey said so far, 296 districts and 3,07,349 villages across India have been declared as Open Defecation Free (ODF). The report collated its data from Census 2011, the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16, the Quality Council of India’s 2017 survey on sanitation and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s database. The states and union territories that have gone ODF since 2014 include Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Daman & Diu and Chandigarh.
The survey also referred to a UNICEF report of 2017, which pointed out that that lack of proper sanitation facilities resulted in the death of an estimated 1,00,000 children in India annually. Non-ODF districts also suffered from lower literacy rates and displayed more cases of diarrhoea and stunting. The report observed that in ODF districts, instances of behavioural shift was noticed among people, who often participated in toilet building activities, along with district officials. The relationship between long-term health benefits and sanitation was also touched upon by the report.
Before the survey was tabled, President Ram Nath Kovind set its tone in his joint address to both houses of Parliament, marking the beginning of the Budget Session of Parliament for 2018. The President stressed on the importance of constructing toilets and how the practice had become an extension of social justice, as well as ensuring dignity for women who had for years been forced to defecate in the open. Sharing the government’s vision, the President said that all newly constructed households were equipped with water, so as to deal with the problem of sanitation at the very basic level.
The importance given to sanitation and its economic benefits in the Survey signify the importance sanitation as a sector has attained, under Swachh Bharat The translation from building of toilets to their effective usage has ushered in behavioural change in many parts of India. The Economic Survey also highlighted that the quality of hygiene and sanitation has significant impact in improving the health outcomes.