Certain media reports have come to the notice of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, quoting a survey report titled TAG (Teen Age Girls) Report 2018. These reports are completely misleading with respect to their claims in relation to the Swachh Bharat Mission. The reported survey claims that around 40 per cent of teenage girls in the country still have to practice open defecation.
The media reports, however, do not mention the most important fact, i.e. the field survey was conducted in 2016-17. This leads to the factually incorrect and misleading conclusion that the survey was conducted recently and its findings reflect the current sanitation situation on the ground. By using data from 2016-17 to question the success of the SBM today, the reports undermine the efforts and achievements of the people of India.
This error takes a serious dimension in the context of rural sanitation which has shown an unprecedented rise under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The fact that a basic detail like the period during which the field survey was carried out has not been distinctly mentioned in the report makes it misleading with respect to reporting on the progress of sanitation in today’s context.
The rural sanitation coverage under SBM has catapulted from 39% in October 2014 to over 95% today. The rapid pace of progress under the SBM means that performance data as measured by studies and surveys may become outdated within months. At the mid-point of the field survey period, i.e. January 2017, the sanitation coverage in rural India was below 60%, which is broadly consistent with the findings of the survey for that period – a fact that is not highlighted in the report itself.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, therefore, underlines that the SBM is an extremely dynamic programme with rapidly accelerating progress. Researchers and authors are advised to exercise abundant caution before passing judgements on the success of the programme based on outdated data. They are also advised to clearly mention the period of the field survey and the statistical significance of any study that they quote so that their readers are not mislead. In case of any doubts, they may contact this Ministry for the latest facts and progress figures pertaining to the Mission. Various media are also similarly advised.
Rural India has built over 8.7 crore toilets in their homes and over 5 lakh villages, 530 districts and 25 States/Union Territories have declared themselves free from the malaise of open defecation, as of October 2018.>