March 22, 2018

Indian Citizens’ Basic Needs: A Progress Report

Rajesh Shukla

Report prepared for the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM), PRICE, New Delhi.

Basic needs are a broad expression and needs to be pinned down. Census has a wide variety of information on household amenities and assets. Since the objective was to judge the efficacy of government schemes and not over-burden this report, EAC-PM requested PRICE to focus on four amenities - access to electricity, tap water, toilets and LPG. Since the objective was also to benchmark improvements over time, PRICE was requested to track the levels of access (measured in terms of coverage of households) at four points in time - 2001, 2011, 2014 and 2018. Of these, the first two are from the Census. Therefore, the 2014 and 2018 numbers were rendered comparable with the Census figures.

As with electricity, rural households have benefited the most. However, Bihar and Jharkhand still lag. In general, for tap water connections, least developed districts haven’t progressed as fast as they have for electricity connections. In such districts, the main source of drinking water continues to be hand pumps. Toilet coverage has also increased sharply in rural India. But this performance mirrors that of tap water connections. The least developed districts, or Jharkhand, don’t do that well. With electricity, the focus shifts to quality of electricity. With toilets, the focus shifts to toilets with running water. That may be a reason why households with toilets still defecate in the open. Despite improvements in rural India, LPG connections still exhibit a rural/urban divide.