700 m mobile users, but only 366 m Indians have toilet access

The UN figures show the poor focus this country has on the most important measure to prevent communicable diseases, says Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh sanitation movement.

According to the figures, only 366 million Indians have access to a private toilet or latrine, implying that everyday 650 million people or about 50 per cent of the population resort to open defecation.

"The sanitation campaign rolled out at the end of the last decade has accelerated the sanitation coverage in recent years but only 26 per cent of the rural population has access to sanitary latrines even today," says Pathak.

Unsafe drinking water and its contamination with fecal matter is a major cause of diseases and child deaths in India, a country that according to Forbes has as many as 69 billionaires.
The proportion of households without any toilet facility declined from about 70 per cent in 1992-93 to about 51 per cent in 2007-08, but the progress is deemed too slow by some.

Adequate sanitation facilities are key to controlling communicable diseases, but unfortunately this has never been a policy priority in India, Pathak said in a function to mark the World Toilet Day on Friday.

The rural-urban divide too is sharp in the area. While 19 per cent of urban households are without toilet facilities, the figure is as high as 66 per cent in case of rural households.

Bihar, Jharkhand and Chahattisgarh have the lowest figures for access to toilets, according to the Millennium Development Goals' India report, while Kerala, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Mizoram, have the highest figures.

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