According to the 2011 census, India
had over 306 million built up occupied properties,
of which 68 per cent were in rural locales and 32
per cent in urban areas. Some 77 per cent of these
or 236 million units were used exclusively as homes.
As expected, the physical state of these properties
varied considerably between urban and rural India.
In the former, 53 per cent of 98 million built up
properties had concrete roofs; 64 per cent had brick
walls; and 73 per cent had cement, tiled or mosaic
floors. The percentages were quite different for the
207 million homes in rural India. Almost
three-fourths of the village houses had roofs of
thatch, tiles, slate or galvanised steel sheets;
nearly 40 per cent had mud or stone walls; and over
60 per cent had mud-lapped floors. Even so, there
has been a huge increase in the number of pucca
houses in rural India between 2001 and 2011 — a
clear indication of greater real incomes flowing to
the core of the country.
The 2011 census enumerated 247 million households.
It is not surprising that 71 per cent of urban
India’s households got their drinking water from
taps. As also to be expected, 44 per cent of rural
households drew their water from hand pumps. What is
more revealing is 31 per cent of rural families
claimed that the tap was their main source of
drinking water. Clearly, plumbers have reached
In 2011, 55 per cent of rural households had
electricity as their main source of lighting — an
improvement from 43.5 per cent a decade earlier.
Even so, it is a fact that at the beginning of the
second decade of the 21st century, there were 75
million rural families which did not have
electricity and, in most parts, had to make do with
kerosene for their lighting. Rural electrification
may have improved. But there is a long way to go.
India remains a toilet-less world. In 2001, less
than 22 per cent of the households in the villages
had a toilet within their homes. That has improved
to a bit over 30 per cent in 2011. However, almost
70 per cent of rural India, comprising over 116
million households, go to the fields to defecate.
Though the share of homes without toilets is less in
urban India — under 19 per cent — it is important to
realise that even in 2011, there were nearly 15
million households in the nation’s cities and towns
that had to populate vacant lots of land for their
Bathing, too, is a public matter. In 2011, 55 per
cent of rural households had no private bathroom, be
it a room or a roofless enclosure. Thus, 92 million
households in India’s villages bathed in open spaces
— by tube wells, ponds, rivers and other water
bodies. So, too, did 10 million urban households,
mostly by tube wells.
Now for some major improvements. In 2001, less than
6 per cent of rural Indian households used LPG for
cooking. A decade later, the share has almost
doubled to over 11 per cent. 65 per cent of homes in
urban India have claimed to use LPG in the 2011
census, which is a vast improvement from 48 per cent
in 2001. For the country as whole, the share of
households using LPG has risen from 17.5 per cent in
2001 to 28.5 per cent in 2011. A big achievement.
In 2001, less than 36 per cent of Indian households
had a bank account. Ten years afterwards, the share
has risen to almost 59 per cent. There have been
major improvements in both the towns and the
countryside. Rural India has seen the share of
households having banking facilities rise from 30
per cent in 2001 to over 54 per cent in 2011; and in
urban India the share has grown from under 50 per
cent to above two-thirds. This is yet another major
The most stellar breakthrough has been in telephony.
In 2001, only 9 per cent of Indian households had
phones, be these land-lines or mobiles. In a decade
that has risen to over 63 per cent. In rural India,
the change is nothing short of revolutionary: from
less than 4 per cent of households owning phones in
2001 to 54 per cent in 2011. In urban India, the
share has risen from 23 per cent to 82 per cent —
all in a space of a decade.
Lastly, two-wheelers. In 2001, less than 12 per cent
of Indian households owned a scooter, motorcycle or
moped. That has gone up to 21 per cent in 2011. More
than one out of three urban households have a
motorised two-wheeler. As do one in seven rural
households. India is moving like never before.
Published: Business World, January 2013