Many Ways to Look at Toilet Data

Rajasthan is the largest state of India. It has been a consistent non-performer in terms of toilet coverage in more than one way. In this post I will use the household survey data of census 2011 to highlight the current status of toilets in Rajasthan. Additionally I will try to explore if the slow improvement in toilet infrastructure has any connection with water supply networks in the state.

As per latest census reports, 65 per cent households in Rajasthan do not have a toilet, way above the national average of 47 per cent. The picture gets worse going down to 79 per cent if only rural areas in Rajasthan are accounted. These figures mean roughly a staggering 40 million people defecate openly there every day.

The figures shouldn’t throw a surprise knowing that the state, since 2001, has spent only 42 per cent of the budget laid out for constructing toilets under Total Sanitation Campaign (now called Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan). Though the overall number of households without a toilet has actually reduced by 6 percentage points since 2001 Rajasthan still figures at bottom five states in terms of improvement.

(Click below link for interactive graph)

The district wise spread of data yields an interesting shape. Hanumangarh and Ganganagar are exceptionally apart and ahead of others with just 15 per cent households without toilets. Then a slope emerges comprising the districts that hover around the national and state average given above. Amusingly the third set, from Pali to Pratapgarh almost makes a cuboidal shape having 22 districts out of total 33 in the state. These 22 districts show poor numbers in the range of 70-90 per cent households with no access to toilets. It clearly marks the deplorable situation of sanitation in almost three-fourths of Rajasthan.

Now the pattern of toilet construction emerging in above graph can be postulated in many ways. One can map out the districts in three distinct sets, which will clearly show northern parts of Rajasthan better-off than rest of the state. A study of local socio-cultural influences in making choices around sanitation can be interesting as well. One more common but inadequate approach to analyse the presence of in-premises toilets is to link it with poverty numbers. Plainly speaking, it implies regions accommodating high mass of low income households will have low number of toilets as well.

However interesting results may emerge if a more filtered view is adopted to explain the poor toilet infrastructure in an area. For example, in my field work in Orissa, Maharashtra and M.P., I came across numerous households barely using their toilets. In many cases, toilet is just a status marker, or even worse used as a store room while members of the household still defecate in open. Hence building toilets is not enough. People need to use them too. These narratives, their motives and their bearing on larger goal of total sanitation seldom turn up.

So one filtered down approach to this subject can be linking a household’s water accessibility with the presence of toilets there. Availability of water is a vital factor in active use of toilet. Its absence or short supply is likely to have a deterring  effect on toilet usage, because otherwise clearing the excreta from the channels of any type of latrine facility (water closet, pit or service latrine) would be a challenge.

When I compared household data by location of water supply with the toilet data above, some fascinating results emerged. In total 35 per cent households in Rajasthan have a water supply source within the residential premises. Amazingly the figure is exactly equal to the percentage of households with an  in-premises toilet in Rajasthan. To further brace the point, top five and bottom five districts in terms of in-premises water supply also figure in top seven and bottom seven list of districts with in-premises toilets.


(Click below link for interactive graph)

So can the stigma of open defecation be automatically diluted by development of water resource networks? Is the huge outlay for building toilets can give larger dividends if invested into measures aiding wider coverage of water supply? Obviously the answers cannot be straight yes or no. It will need sharper scrutiny of facts, and has to be matched by equally rigorous field  inquiry. But establishing such correlation of independent variables at least provide crucial leads to policy makers, expanding their scope of policy design.

WordPress has not enabled embedding of Tableau links, so as if now graphs have to be viewed on a new tab. It indeed disrupts the flow and the message. In future I’ll try some other visualisation tool that is supported by WordPress.