Bihar paradox: Phones outnumber toilets
Nearly 56 percent of families in Bihar have a mobile or landline connection, but about 77 percent of the population lack toilets, says a census report, highlighting the paradoxes in the state which has taken big leaps in development but also lagged behind in key areas.
“Till 2001, only 2.2 percent families were using any kind of telecom facility in Bihar, now over half of its population owns a phone, as around 98 lakh (9.8 million) mobile phones are in use,” said the census report.
In contrast, only 23 percent of its population has access to toilets and 77 percent is forced to go for open defection.
“Bihar is full of paradoxes. Millions are living in the lantern age and have no access to toilets, but millions are using banking services and chatting over phones,” Bhaskar Mishra, deputy registrar general of India, told IANS. “It is amazing to note that nearly 56 percent of the total 1.89 crore (18.9 million families) in Bihar have mobile or landline telephone connections but a majority of them lack toilets,” he said.
The latest report on houses, household amenities and assets in Bihar, released by the Census of India 2011, says the state is developing at a high rate, but millions are still without electricity, safe water and are defecating in the open. Bihar has recorded a remarkable average growth rate of 11.3 percent over the last six fiscal years and improved school education, primary health and increased immunization and reduced infant mortality rate in the last few years. These are some indicators of change and development in the state.
Last year, the central government records showed that Bihar was the worst performer in the national Total Sanitation Programme campaign. It said one out of every six people without access to sanitation in India lived in Bihar. The Bihar government launched a special scheme named after veteran socialist leader Rammanohar Lohia in 2007 to speed up construction of toilets, but its implementation has been lagging, to say the least.
Bihar’s Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) Minister Chandra Mohan Rai said that the department planned to provide toilet facilities to more than 10 million families, but till now just over three million households had been covered. Only 16.4 percent of Bihar’s 18.9 million families or households have the luxury to light up their residences with electricity, the remaining 83.6 percent families live without electricity, said a report on household amenities and assets in Bihar, released by the Census of India 2011.
According to the report, in Bihar, kerosene is the main source of lighting for 82.4 percent of its 105 million population. The report said that electricity as the source of lighting had increased by just six percent since the 2001 census. It was the only positive thing about electricity in Bihar in the last one decade. Bihar has a daily requirement of 2,300-2,500 MW of power. It generates hardly 80-100 MW. The supply from the central grid is only around 750-900 MW.
“The state is facing a power deficit of about 1,000-1,200 MW a day,” said an official of the state energy department.
In a reference to the high growth rate, economist Abhijit Sen, who is also a Planning Commission member, had said in February it was a matter of serious concern that there was no decline in poverty in Bihar despite a high growth rate and development.
Nearly half of Bihar’s population lives below the poverty line.