Thursday, March 15, 2012

An interesting fact from the Indian census

Here's an interesting article I found on "The Australian" website regarding the recent census (conducted last year) here in India:

More mobile phones than toilets in India, research shows

by: Francis Elliott
From: The Times March 15, 2012 1:53PM

SATELLITE technology has helped to reveal the deeply uneven development of India, where more households now have a mobile phone than a toilet.

Using imagery from space was the only way that the Government could track the mushrooming and mostly illegal slums of its cities as it carried out its vast ten-yearly census. Due to the rapid pace of expansion, printed maps are redundant as soon as they appear.

The final figures released this week show that a decade of rapid economic growth has made modest changes to most Indians' standard of living and none whatsoever to a fifth of the country's 1.2 billion population.

Optimists point to the extraordinary increase in mobile phone ownership as evidence of development. Ten years ago fewer than 4 per cent of rural households had a phone - today the figure is 54 per cent.

The growth of nuclear-family households, greater access to electricity and the dominance of television over radio are also seen as proof of improvement.

But the census has shown that just 10per cent more households in India have a private toilet than in 2001. Access to treated drinking water is also limited to just a third of homes and 17per cent still need to fetch water from more than half a kilometre away.

Two thirds of Indian households still use firewood, cow-dung, crop waste or coal to cook on - a statistic that helps to explain the scale of both health and environmental problems in India.

The fact that more households now have access to a phone than a toilet has provoked a debate on whether public policy or private consumption is responsible for skewed priorities. India's census chief, C. Chandramouli, blamed "cultural and traditional reasons and lack of education" for the persistence of poor sanitation.

Others, however, point to wide regional variations that they believe shows how enlightened public policy and good local government can make a difference even in poorer states.

A surprise finding was that only 3 per cent of Indian households have access to the internet at home.

Most Indians still travel on two wheels, and, although there was a 9 per cent jump in the number owning a motorcycle, just under half still rely on a cycle for transport. The number of Indian households that have a car is only 2.3 per cent.

Writing in the business paper Mint, Niranjan Rajadhyaksha said that the data had painted an incontrovertible picture of "gradual improvement" for India's aam aadmi, or common man.

"The positive message is that most Indians are living better. The ownership of a wrist watch or cycle used to be enough to be counted as middle class ."

He conceded it was worrying that a fifth of all households still had none of the basic assets surveyed. They had been "left out" of India's growth story.

An illustration of the complex mix of the sophisticated and meagre in India is provided by the census itself. Having identified illegal colonies via satellite, council workers were sent to paint numbers on properties to guide census-takers on their rounds. The numbers now act as residential addresses.

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