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   Of Homes and Hearths    

Omkar Goswami


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 India’s villages.

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 excretions.

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 feat.

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


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