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| Last Updated:22/01/2014

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Bengal homes are cramped, lack sanitation and hygiene

Saibal Sen,TNN, 21 January 2014


KOLKATA: Lack privacy in your room. Or does it appear too cramped. Take heart as many in Bengal share your plight. The worry, however, is elsewhere.


Most people in urban Bengal have to do with an average of 35.23 square meter (or 379.21 square feet) space to live. Only 553 per 1000 married couples among them have a separate room to themselves. Worse still, only 583 per 1000 households have a separate kitchen at home. In rural Bengal though people stay in even smaller homes 32.93 square meters (or 354.46 square feet), ironically, more married couples have the privacy of a room to themselves, at 595 per married couples.


If one compares Bengal to pan-India figures, we are not that well-off in any count. The average floor area of the dwelling in rural India is 40.03 square meter (430.88 square feet) and urban India is 39.20 square meter or 421.85 square feet. Kerala tops the list. 47.4 percent households in rural India and 66.0 percent households in urban India had a separate kitchen in their home. 59.4 percent households in rural India and 57.6 percent households in urban India had a separate room for married couples. National Sample Survey (NSS)'s nation-wide survey on 'Drinking water, Sanitation, Hygiene, Housing condition' in its 69th round (July 2012-December 2012), now available, has certain more disturbing facts for Bengal.


It is not just about the houses we live in. Several key factors which impact our health and hygiene is also covered in this report. If one were to consider the urban areas of bigger states, Bengal has the lowest (49.0 percent) proportion of households who got drinking water within their premises. The highest is in Himachal Pradesh at 94.4 percent. In rural India and urban India 31.7 percent and 82.5 percent households had improved drainage facility during 2012. In rural Bengal this stands at 8.7% and urban Bengal - 64.8%. In urban India, Delhi tops the list at 96.4 percent. Worse is still in store. It isn't only about improved drainage, several Bengal's home don't have a proper garbage disposal system in place. Rural Bengal is actually the worst in the country, on this count alone. Garbage disposal - the manner in which household wastes are collected and dumped outside residential areas - is prevalent in 32% homes in rural areas and 75.8% homes in urban India. The report says, in rural areas of bigger states, Haryana had the highest (76.0 percent) and Bengal had the lowest (11.2 percent) proportion of households with garbage disposal arrangement.


The survey also added another key index - ventilation - to gauge the health of those who stay in these homes. It clubbed the ventilation into either good or bad category. A whopping 74.1% of rural Bengal homes and 58.3% of urban homes have badly ventilated homes. 26.3% in rural India and 47.1 % households in urban India have properly ventilated homes.


It has always been a fact that Bengal has a bad track record in weeding out malnourishment in children and women. 38.7% of children (between six months to five years of age) are malnourished and 39.1 % of women in 15-49 years face the same plight. Neonatal mortality, when a child dies within its first month of life, contributes to almost three quarters of infant deaths and is most prevalent among rural and poor families. Almost two thirds of children under three are anemic, and more than 60 per cent of pregnant women are anemic.


The question remains whether lack of sanitation and hygiene is only adding to the problem?