September 2, 2018

A Snapshot by Rajesh Shukla for PRICE's report: Indian Citizens' Basic Needs

Dr. Rajesh Shukla

Over the years there has been a shift in the development discourse. Progress in development is no more defined on the basis of overall income growth of the economy, but rather on the quantum reduction in the share of population deprived of ‘basic needs’...

Over the years there has been a shift in the development discourse. Progress in development is no more defined on the basis of overall income growth of the economy, but rather on the quantum reduction in the share of the population deprived of ‘basic needs’. The present report makes an attempt to analyse the progress of India with regard to four important essential needs during 2001-2018. These are access to electricity, tap water, toilet facilities, and LPG. The report analyses the group disparity in all these amenities across states, between rural and urban areas, and more importantly among twenty heterogeneous district clusters1.

It needs to be kept in mind that the data pertaining to 2001 and 2011 are from the Census of India (2001 and 2011) and the data pertaining to 2014 and 2016 are from ICE 360° pan India household surveys2. The data pertaining to 2018 are estimated for rural and urban areas separately for each district development cluster and each state using data from Census 2011 and ICE 360° surveys.

Overall, the trends suggest a significant improvement in access to household amenities across the country during 2011-14 and further at a much faster pace during 2014-18.

Electricity: The proportion of households with electricity connections has moved up 14 percentage points to reach an estimated total coverage of 89% over the past four years (2014-18) against 8% during 2011-14.

Tap water: Over the same period, the proportion of households with tap water in their homes has increased by 26 percentage points to achieve an estimated 65% total coverage during 2014-18 against 12 percentage points increase during 2011-14.

Toilet: The proportion of households with toilets has moved up by 14 percentage points during the last four years with total coverage reaching an estimated 68% compared to an increase of 7 percentage points during 2011-14.

LPG: Access to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections has risen sharply, with an estimated 67% of households reportedly using LPG as cooking fuel in 2018 against 40% in 2014 and 28% in 2011.

The average annual growth in access of household amenities has been faster during 2014-18 compared to 2011-14 and 2001-11.

The rate of growth of electrification of households has grown from 1.1% in the 2001-2011 period to 2.7% in 2011-14. Pace of annual growth during 2014-18 is 3.6% for all-India.

At an all-India level the growth in tap water connections was 6.7% in 2014-18 compared to 4% in 2011-14 and hardly 0.6% in 2001-11.

At an all-India level, the growth in penetration of households with toilets was 1% during 2001- 2011, 2.6% in 2011-14 and 3.5% in 2014-18.

Pace of growth in penetration of LPG has been 7.5% during 2014-18 at the all-India level compared to 3.8% in 2011-14 and hardly 1% in 2001-11.

A majority of the benefits have been accrued to rural households and this is not surprising as the period 2011-2018 has seen a significant boost to rural fortunes, particularly toilet ownership and LPG connections. For instance, estimated toilet coverage grew by a staggering 19 percentage points between 2014 and 2018 in rural areas as compared to 2 percentage points in urban areas. Similarly, LPG connections for rural India have jumped by 36 percentage points during the last four years whereas growth in urban India has been 16 percentage points.

On the flip side, the households that are still deprived in terms of access to these amenities also belong to rural India. There were about 3.3 crore off-the-grid Indian households, 10.2 crore households without access to tap water, 9.4 crore households lacking toilet facilities, and 9.7 crore households not having LPG connections. The majority of such households (84% to 97%) are located in the rural areas of poor district clusters of backward states.

Needless to say, a lack of basic needs has important implications on the quality of life of ordinary citizens and their health. Dimension of every basic need has its own characteristics, challenges as well as opportunities. What is, therefore, needed is ‘focused priorities and customized interventions’, particularly in the deprived geography with poor performance. Further, it is far more insightful and actionable to assess deprivation broken down by different dimensions rather than be in the quest of a single.

The mission to achieve universal access of “Basic Needs” — electricity for all, sanitation for all, safe drinking water for all, and LPG for all — is indeed an ambitious goal. We now have to look forward to seeing how quickly the most critical goal is accomplished.