New Delhi: The recently released National Service Scheme (NSS) 76th round survey on ‘Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition’, July-December 2018, as a part of the report, has acknowledged respondent bias, i.e. individual households, 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. This bias may have led to significant under reporting of sanitation coverage.
Such biases are often observed in households when canvassing information on items and issues where government funded beneficiary schemes are under implementation.
Acknowledging this limitation of a leading question, the NSS report itself has issued a disclaimer as follows: “In 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.”
Despite this disclaimer, some recent media articles have quoted the report and questioned the level of sanitation coverage in India. This interpretation is misleading as the results of the survey on access to latrines and LPG cylinders, as brought out in the report, are likely to be under-reported. This has been categorically mentioned in section 1.4 of the report, and has been referenced again along with the results of access to latrine in section 3.6 of the report.
The level of under-reporting can also be gauged by the fact that only 17.4% of rural respondents said that they received a Government benefit for a sanitation facility, and 15.1% of rural respondents said that they received a government benefit for LPG in the past three years.
The estimates from the household surveys would have had an inherent bias in the response on account of the reasons stated above and would not reconcile with the administrative data captured while implementing these schemes.
The administrative data reveals that the level of progress made in both these sectors in the last five years, and that all 6 lakh villages have self-declared and 699 districts have certified themselves as Open Defecation Free (ODF).
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has also stated that they will “address some of these issues in the forthcoming household survey commencing in 2020.”
The MoSPI and the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti (Water Resources) would like to reiterate that due to this limitation, it is inappropriate to use the results of this report to draw conclusions on the sanitation status in India.
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