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Economic Survey 2021: Access to ‘bare necessities’ in India improved in 2018

Access to basic necessities such as drinking water, sanitation, housing and other facilities across states in India improved in 2018 over 2012. Access to essentials or bare necessities is the highest in Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat, while the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Tripura.

January 29, 2021 / 09:36 PM IST
Access to bare necessities among households is “significantly better” in 2018 compared to 2012, the survey findings showed.

Access to bare necessities among households is “significantly better” in 2018 compared to 2012, the survey findings showed.

The Economic Survey 2020-21 measured the progress made by states in providing access to “the bare necessities” such as water, sanitation, housing, electricity and clean cooking fuel for a healthy living, in addition to highlighting the significance of the healthcare sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, calling for an agile healthcare infrastructure in the country.

Access to these essentials have “direct linkages” with health of household members and also “regarded as an important barometer of economic development in academic and policymaking circles,” the survey said.

Better sanitation and drinking water facilities help prevent spread of communicable diseases, and access to bare necessities along with transport, medical care, and schools is “essential both as a direct component of well-being as well as inputs into productive capabilities”. the survey said.

These essentials are examined based on a construction of the Bare Necessities Index (BNI) at the rural, urban, and all-India level. The BNI comprises 26 indicators on five dimensions such as water, sanitation, housing, micro-environment, and other facilities. The index measures all states for 2012 and 2018 using NSO data from 69th and 76th rounds.

Here’s what the survey findings reveal:


Access to bare necessities among households is “significantly better” in 2018 compared to 2012, the survey findings showed. These are the highest in states such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttrakhand, Delhi, Goa, Mizoram and Sikkim, while the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura.


Source: Economic Survey 2020-21

Improved or highest access to necessities in rural regions was recorded in Punjab, Kerala, Sikkim, Goa and Delhi, while lowest was in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. While, in urban areas, no state showed the lowest levels of BNI in 2018. Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur showed improvement over 2012.

Access improved “disproportionately more” for the poorest households as against the richest households across the country. “The improvement in equity is particularly noteworthy because while the rich can seek private alternatives, lobby for better services, or if need be, move to areas where public goods are better provided for, the poor rarely have such choices. Thus, provision of public goods can particularly affect the quality of living of the vulnerable sections in a society,” the Economic Survey said.

Drinking Water Accessibility Index

This sub-index on drinking water accessibility revealed that access to drinking water to most households had improved in 2018 compared to 2012. States above the line in the graph below depict improved access to drinking water to households in 2018 compared to 2012.

However, regional disparities have increased over the said period, attributed to increase in rural areas, while there was a decline reported in urban areas. “The Jal Jeevan mission must therefore focus on reducing the disparities in the rural areas as the reduction in such disparities will reduce the disparities across India,” the survey highlighted.

Source: Economic Survey 2020-21

Sanitation Index

This sub-index measures physical as well as quality of access to sanitation. Sanitation access has improved for all states in rural areas and for most of the states in urban areas. Regional disparities have declined as the states having low access to sanitation in 2012 have improved. “However, inter-State differences in access to sanitation are still large, especially in rural areas. The level of access to safe sanitation has increased in the lowest income quintile, both in rural as well as in urban areas,” the report said.

Likewise, significant improvement in access to housing for the lowest-income group has been reported.

Micro-Environment Index

Access to micro-environment has improved for all states, except for Assam (rural and urban) and Odisha (urban). Regional disparities have declined sharply in urban areas, though increased in urban areas. Micro-environment index measures the percentage of households living in a dwelling unit with access to “drainage (other than Katcha drainage), without problems of flies/mosquitoes (indicated by other than severe), and efforts made by local bodies/state government to tackle the problem of flies/mosquitoes.”

Other Facilities Index

Access to ‘other-facilities’ has improved for all states for rural as well as in urban areas, except for Himachal Pradesh (urban). Overall, the inter-states disparities have also declined, especially in the urban areas. The 'other facilities' index records the availability of kitchen, kitchen with a water tap, access to bathroom, electricity use, the types of wiring used instead of temporary electric wiring, and type of fuel used for cooking etc.

How bare necessities can benefit health and education outcomes

The latest economic survey highlighted that these “bare necessities” can have a positive impact on health outcomes. For instance, benefits of the Swachh Bharat Mission, led to a decline in diarrhea and malaria cases in children below five years. Decline in open defecation showed similar outcomes with regards to child survival.

Based on the studies cited as examples, the Economic Survey correlated the BNI with infant mortality rate and under-5 mortality rate for rural and urban areas. “The close associations suggest bare necessities correlate strongly with health outcomes,” the report said.

Daily activities like water hauling, consumes substantial time and effort of a household. This activity negatively impacts school attendance among girls, the report suggested. While access to latrine facilities substantially increases enrolment of pubescent-age girls in schools.

The survey also mentioned “strong correlation between electricity consumption per capita and higher scores on the education index across countries”. The statistical findings represented in the survey indicated “high level of the gross enrolment ratio in the schools could be linked with BNI.”

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Chaitanya Mallapur
first published: Jan 29, 2021 09:36 pm
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