Statistical information on basic living condition of Indians is in a state of confusion as two government agencies have tabulated completely different estimates on the critical issue impacting lives of millions in the country.
To provide a complete picture on key indicators to drinking water, sanitation and housing in India, both, National Sample Survey Office and Census of India, have come up with two different reports raising a question mark over policy formulation for the next government.
While Census of India’s report named “Houselisting and Housing Census Data Highlights – 2011” indicate that 35% of rural and 51.8% of urban Indians have access to water within their premises, NSS report named “Key Indicators of Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing condition in India-2012” show that 46% rural and 76.8% urban Indians have access to safe water within their premises.
Similarly, Census report states that 17.9% rural and 62% urban Indians have access to improved drinking water but NSS report reveals that 88.5% rural and 95.3% urban have access to treated drinking water.
Not only the drinking water availability but the condition of housing too indicates two different pictures according to NSS and Census data.
While 65.3% rural and 93.6% urban Indians have pucca houses as per NSS report merely 24.9% rural and 47.4% urban have pucca houses as stated by Census.
As a whole there are 5, 97,483 lakh villages and 24.7 crore households in India (Census 2011)
Raising concern over the discrepancy, Brinda Jagirdar, Consulting economist (former chief economist at SBI) said, “Not just NSSO and Census but there are discrepancies between many other government reports. In my view the major concern is whichever data is considered chances of the poor getting missed out from the ambit of welfare measures is likely high.”
Analysis of the reports by NSSO and Census shows that even though the study was made with a mandate to find out the data on basic living condition of India but the sample size of both the reports were completely different.
While the sample size for Census report was 1.2 billion population of India, NSSO survey covered the whole of the Indian Union. The key results of the survey are based on the central sample consisting of 4,475 villages in rural areas and 3,522 urban blocks spread over all States and Union Territories. The total number of households surveyed was 95,548 (53,393 in rural areas and 42,155 in urban areas).divided its sample collections into two stage units.
According to NSSO the stage units of sample collections is as follows:
First-stage units: As is usual in the regular NSS rounds, most States and Union Territories participated in the survey: a ‘State sample’ was surveyed by State Government officials whereas the ‘Central sample’ was surveyed by NSSO. For rural India, the number of villages surveyed in the Central sample was 4,475 and the number of urban blocks surveyed was 3,522. This document is based on the estimates obtained from the Central sample only.
Second-stage units: For this particular survey, from each sample village and urban block, 12 households were selected respectively for canvassing Schedule 1.2. The total number of households in which Schedule 1.2 was canvassed was 53,393 in rural India and 42,155 in urban India.
Talking about the need for uniformity in the data collection process Nitiya Jacob, Programme Director of Water Programme at Centre for science and environment said, “NSSO data has its own significance as it digs deeper into the issues concerned but its results cannot be perceived for the entire country due to its smaller sample size as compared to Census data. To avoid discrepancies it is important to focus on strengthening and building uniformity in the data collection process.”