Fact check: How is Narendra Modi government building 0.7 toilets every second?

On 15th September, the official Twitter handle of Prime Minister’s Office tweeted the following tweet.

Since coming to power, NDA govt in general and Prime Minister Modi, in particular, has been giving highest priority to cleanliness and sanitation. In 2014, only 39% of households had toilets. Open defecation was a huge health issue. To address the problem, Modi govt launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign on 2 October 2014. One of the components of the program was building toilets and making Indian cities and villages open defecation free. Under the program, toilets are being built at break-neck speed and every year number of households having toilet is growing at an impressive rate. The tweet by PMO gives an update on the work done under the program. This achievement was appreciated by many on the micro-blogging site.

But, some people have this Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder of finding fault, real or imaginary, in anything that comes from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And this time was also no exception. Journalist Punya Prasun Bajpai decided to do his own fact check on the claim by PMO. Using some basic arithmetic, he concluded that it is not possible to build 9 crore toilets in 4.5 years because that would be mean constructing 0.7 toilets per second.

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He was not the only one to ‘discover’ this big anomaly in the data. Many other Twitter experts also did the same calculation and arrived at the same conclusion.

Now, the mathematics is correct, there is doubt about that. These people get full credit for that. Although they have excellent calculation skills, they seem to miss another important quality, common sense. Those who are arguing with the 0.7 toilets per second seems to fail to distinguish between serial processing and parallel processing, to use Computer terminology. That is, these 9 crore toilets were not being built one after another, but they were built simultaneously, at multiple locations, by multiple people.

This tweet perfectly answers their doubt.

The work on building toilets are being implemented by two agencies, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for urban areas and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for rural areas. The program has a workforce of around 30 lakh, including government employees. The program builds toilets for public places and provides funding for constructing toilets at individual households. Households build the toilet on their own, often making their own contribution as per their choice. And that’s how lakhs of toilets are being built across the country.

Map showing % of households with toilets, source: Swachh Bharat Mission

Due to this vast work, the number of households with toilet went up to 93%. This is because around 9 crore toilets in total have been built in the last 4.5 years.


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