Tamil Nadu, acknowledged widely as one of the progressive States, has lived up to this image through its enhanced performance, over the last 10 years, in most of development parameters except sanitation.
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Be it the use of electricity or tapped water supply or telephone connections or possession of two wheelers, the State's scorecard for the decade is well ahead of the national average. But, in respect of sanitation, its performance is not very impressive. In fact, in the case of open defecation, while the national average was 49.8 per cent, the State's figure was 45.7 per cent, according to the Houselisting and Housing Census Data 2011 released by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner a few days ago. In 2001, electricity was the source of lighting for 71.2 per cent of rural households and 88 per cent of urban households. Ten years later, the coverage was 90.8 per cent in the rural areas and 96.1 per cent in urban.
Likewise, the use of kerosene for lighting went down very sharply throughout the State. In 2001, 28.2 per cent of rural homes and 11.1 per cent of urban homes were dependent on this fuel for lighting. Now, the figures are 8.3 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively.
Take the case of tap water supply. Thanks to the emphasis on drinking water supply projects by successive governments in the last 10 years or so, the coverage of households under tap water supply went up from 60.5 per cent to 79.3 per cent in rural areas and 65.4 per cent to 80.3 per cent in urban areas during 2001-2011. The increased coverage of households led to less and less people using hand pumps/tube wells over the decade. Compared to 24.8 per cent in rural areas and 20.5 per cent in urban areas, the present figures are 12.9 per cent and 12.6 per cent.
One can go on with the positive side of the State's development but in certain areas such as sanitation, Tamil Nadu's performance is not something that one can boast of. In rural areas, 73.3 per cent of households are still resorting to open defecation while the figure is 16.2 per cent in urban areas. The overall coverage of piped sewerage remained low with 14.4 per cent. In urban areas, 27.4 per cent of the households are dependent on the sewerage and 37.9 per cent on septic tanks. The figures under the two sub-parameters for rural areas were 2.2 per cent and 14.4 per cent.
In the case of a social indicator – presence of married couples in households, the State follows the nationwide pattern. About 74 per cent of the total households had one married couple and 10 per cent only had two married couples. As for another indicator – household size, four-member households accounted for 30.8 per cent; three-member households - 19 per cent and five-member households 17.7 per cent. The numbers indicate that nuclear families have come to dominate the household scene, with joint families becoming a thing of the past.