Odisha and Bihar, two states which have consistently demanded a special category status from the Centre on account of being backward, figure among the worst states in India when it comes to household toilets.
According to the Baseline Survey – 2012 report of the Swachh Bharat Mission under the aegis of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the percentage of households without toilets in Odisha is an alarming 88 per cent. The data shows that people residing in 79,81,973 households do not have access to toilets — a cause of concern in a state which has remained inherently backward over decades. Successive studies have shown that lack of toilets in homes propel people, including women and children, to relieve themselves in open fields thus making them prone to mosquito bites and malaria – one of the largest killers in rural India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have launched an ambitious scheme last year to ensure construction of toilets in every Indian household, but the data clearly shows that much work is needed in this area.
Giving Odisha company in this list is Bihar, another eastern state currently heading for assembly elections later in the year. With close to 78% of households surveyed without toilets, Bihar is certainly not far away. According to the government data, a whopping 16816311 households do not have access to toilets. From time to time, news reports have often emerged of girls refusing to marry into a household without a toilet, but the real question is whether this important issue will ever become an electoral plank for political leaders as they make their way to the voters’ homes in the elections scheduled later this year.
Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand are some of the other states which have performed poorly on toilet parameters, according to the data.
Among the states which have performed well is Kerala, where households without toilets are just about 5%. But this fact is hardly surprising given that Kerala has figured consistently high on human development indicators like health and education. The southern state has always won praise for its strong panchayati raj system and its commitment to investing in populist welfare schemes. Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim are two other states which have a good record of coverage of household toilets.