NSS report at odds with sanitation survey on India’s ODF status | India News

NEW DELHI: A controversy broke out on Monday over the latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data claiming that more than one-fourth rural households had no access to toilet during the July-December period of 2018, barely 10 months before all villages in India were declared open defecation free (ODF), prompting the sanitation department to raise doubts about the methodology of the NSS.
The NSS report contradicted the results of the annual sanitation survey carried out by the government for 2018-19, which had found that 93.1% rural households had access to toilets between November 2018 and February 2019.
The sample size of the sanitation survey was bigger.

On Monday, the sanitation department and the statistics and programme implementation ministry, responsible for the NSS, issued a joint statement saying it was “inappropriate” to use the results of the NSS report to draw conclusions about the sanitation status in India due to some limitations in the survey.
‘Bias behind under-reporting of sanitation coverage’
Both the surveys, though, had similar findings that over 96% of the rural households who have access to a toilet use it regularly.
An official statement said the NSS report itself had acknowledged respondent bias when asked “a leading question on whether they have ever received benefits from the government, not admitting that they have toilets or LPG cylinders in the hope of receiving additional benefits from government.”
It said this bias may have led to significant under reporting of sanitation coverage and such biases are often observed in households when canvassing information on items and issues where government funded beneficiary schemes are under implementation.
“It’s a very peculiar situation as we have two survey findings of 2018 and both studies were done by the government and by credible entities. The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) was conducted by an independent verification agency (IVA) under the World Bank support project. So, which one do you believe?,” asked a government official who has been involved in the Swachh Bharat Mission.
While the survey findings suggested that 71.3% had access to toilet during the survey period, the data on the Swachh Bharat dashboard of the sanitation department registered nearly 95% toilet coverage. The dashboard data is updated based on the details that the agencies upload on the system.
The joint statement by the two departments tried to pinpoint reasons behind such discrepancy. It said the NSS report itself had issued a disclaimer.
“In the NSS 76th round, information on ‘benefits received by the household from the government schemes for drinking water, sanitation, housing, electrification and LPG connection facilities’ was collected for the first time, prior to asking them about having access to these facilities…there may be an inherent tendency of the respondent to give a negative reply on the presumption or expectation that a negative reply on benefits received and access to facilities, may help them to get additional benefits through government schemes…These points are to be kept in mind while interpreting the results on the benefits received from different government schemes and access to the said facilities.”

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