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40% Indians don’t have access to clean fuel; nearly 20% still practice open defecation: NFHS

The numbers go up in rural areas where 57% of people can’t cook using LPG, natural gas and electricity while 26% practise open defecation
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 22 May 2022, 06:07 IST
Last Updated : 22 May 2022, 06:07 IST
Last Updated : 22 May 2022, 06:07 IST
Last Updated : 22 May 2022, 06:07 IST

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More than 40 per cent of Indians don’t have access to clean fuel for cooking while every fifth Indian still practises open defecation, the National Family Health Survey says in its latest report, giving a peek into the country’s socio-economic realities contrary to the claims of the central government.

The numbers go up in rural areas where 57 per cent of people can’t cook using LPG, natural gas and electricity while 26 per cent practise open defecation.

Also, 56 per cent of people in the countryside use coal, wood, charcoal and dung cakes for cooking and a large number of them cook in the same room where they live, exposing every member of the household to noxious smoke. More than 27 per cent of houses in rural India have no separate room for cooking.

Aiming to prevent people from inhaling such household smoke, which impacts their health, the Narendra Modi government in 2016 launched the Prime Minister Ujjwala Yojana that sought to provide free LPG connection and one cylinder to 8 crore families.

Six years down the line, the NFHS-5 survey shows 58 per cent penetration of LPG for the country whereas, in villages, only 42 per cent of households use LPG or natural gas for cooking. Rural India’s preferred fuel is wood with nearly 44 per cent of households using it.

Even in better-off southern and western states, 15-30 per cent of households use solid fuel for cooking and the number goes up to above 60 per cent in eastern and central states.

The Union government claimed the target set for the PM Ujjwala scheme was achieved in August 2019 following which it was expanded to include an additional one crore families.

There are, however, reports of families being unable to refill the cylinders beyond the first free one – or they do it sporadically -as the cost of a cylinder is too much to bear.

The open defecation story is also somewhat similar. The percentage of households practising open defecation is 19 per cent in 2019-21, which is an improvement from 39 per cent in 2015-16.

Despite the improvement, open defecation is being practised in 26 per cent of households in rural India, NFHS-5 shows, flagging the challenges before the government to make India clean.

This comes eight years after the Modi government launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission in October 2014 with the goal of eliminating open defecation. Five years after the launch, Prime Minister Modi at a public function said that the number of people practising open defecation had fallen from 60 crores to “negligible”.

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Published 21 May 2022, 16:59 IST

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