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The government today countered a Water Aid report on India's sanitation, saying the global non-profit organisation's finding "extrapolated" data from the period between 2000 and 2015 and missed out the Swachh Bharat Mission.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation said the report, titled 'Out of Order-The State of the World's Toilets 2017', was "factually incorrect" and would mislead "readers in believing that this is the present status of sanitation in India".
"This report quotes data from the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) which extrapolates sanitation data based on available data from past studies between 2000 and 2015.
"This means it misses out on most of the progress under the Swachh Bharat Mission which aims to eradicate open defecation from the country by October, 2019," according to a ministry statement.
The ministry said that though "JMP in the same report has inserted a special section praising Swachh Bharat Mission and stating that its report does not capture a lot of the work done since 2015 and hence data is not up to date, Water Aid has not mentioned it in its report".
"It's an egregious mistake, misleading readers in believing that this is the present status of sanitation in India," the statement said.
Referring to the ministry's detailed database of sanitation coverage put up on its website, it said, "Even though the report mentions that 56 per cent of people in India lack access to safe sanitation, in reality, the present number is down to about 28 per cent."
Stating that the "disparity" between the numbers mentioned in the report and reality is "extremely stark", the government has highlighted another section in the report where it is said that "355 million women and girls are still waiting for a toilet whereas the same JMP report confirms that as on June 2017, the total number of people defecating in the open in India has reduced to 350 million".
The ministry said the number has further "come down to below 300 million people as on November 2017".
The government has expressed its displeasure over such "factually incorrect and irresponsible statements", saying it is unfortunate that it comes from an organisation of the credibility of Water Aid whose Indian chapter is working closely with the ministry and is fully aware of both the groundwork, macro statistics and overall progress.