Here is a very interesting paper. Arjun Kumar\cite{arjun_sanitation_2014} shows that, according to official reports, 78.27 million individual household latrines were constructed under the Total Sanitation Campaign (renamed as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in 2012) between 2001-02 and 2010-11. However, according to the Census of India, over the same period, number of households having latrine within premises increased by only 21.2 million.

Kumar shows that the Census data on proportion of households having toilets within premises are broadly consistent with other household-level statistics. As per the 2011 Census, about 31 per cent of households had latrines within premises of their homesteads/houses. In comparison, NSSO’s 2012 survey on “Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition in India” put the proportion at 41 per cent.

The increase in number of households having toilets in their houses seen in the Census data refers to all households having toilets, and not merely households that built toilets under the Total Sanitation Campaign. Since under the Total Sanitation Campaign toilets are constructed only for the below poverty line households and SC/ST households among non-poor, surely a substantial number of non-poor households that built toilets during this period would have built them on their own. This implies that the actual discrepancy between the claims and the reality of toilets built under the Total Sanitation Campaign/Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan is likely to be even greater.

It would have been interesting if the paper also provided State-level statistics on this discrepancy. In which States is this discrepancy particularly high?

These results are not merely about discrepancy in statistics on sanitation, as Kumar argues. They actually raise questions about veracity of claims made about the work done under the flagship programme of the Indian government in the area of sanitation. A vast number of toilets build under the Total Sanitation Programme/Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan do not seem to exist. Were they ever built or was the money just siphoned off?

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