65 Percent of Population without Toilet – 3 Jan 11


Now we have entered the second decade of the 21st century. It sounds like a lot and of course, with time mankind is progressing and the whole world is developing. Still however there are many countries where you wonder whether this progress and development has forgotten about some areas, some parts of the country and some parts of life. Of course we were talking a lot about such things with my friends who are in India for the first time. We talked about effectiveness and cleanliness, about how people work and how people build but also about the very simple things of life, for example where people go for shitting if they don’t have a toilet.

India may have made great development especially in the IT sector and some of the smartest business men come from here. India’s best doctors work all over the world and people even travel here for getting their surgery done. But don’t be surprised, in this country which is progressing so much, if you see people sitting and shitting at the side of the road. Completely unabashed women and men hold their buttocks over a ditch, often happily chattering with each other while letting it flow. It is a very common sight and for many people a daily ritual out in nature.

In India, 700 Million people have mobile phones but only 360 Million people have toilets! With India’s population of a bit over a Billion people, this makes about 35% of the population of India. 65% of the population do not have a toilet and go out to do their business outside. In rural areas this percentage is even more. There, only up to 26% people use toilets. I would love to say that the rest of them goes out in nature but unfortunately this is not entirely true. Development has brought too many tarred streets and paved ways. For many people the drain on the side of the road is the place to go and squat down. This is what they teach their children.

You can imagine what the consequences are. Not only does it look ugly to see the sewage just at the side of the road but there are serious health consequences, too. Think of those people who don’t have access to cleansed and filtered drinking water. Think of bacteria and pollution, of infections and diseases. The biggest reason for child death in India are infections and unfortunately polluted drinking water is one of the causes.

This all happens in the country of 69 billionaires. Again, I would also say that money is spent in the wrong ways. India is a religious country and if we could just spend as much money on building toilets as is spent on building temples, a big change could come into this country. People have a big budget to spend on religious rituals, why don’t we spend some more money to make our daily ritual a bit more comfortable and healthy?

In our school we also try to teach poor children hygiene. They learn to wash their hands, they tell their parents that water and milk has to be cooked before they can drink it and many more small precautions. Keeping the place where you live clean is the main thing to save you from infections and bacteria. Unfortunately however the sewage and toilet problem is not a priority in government policies and peoples’ minds.

I have the hope however that we will further develop and some day there will be nobody sitting at the side of the road for doing his job.


  1. Herri

    Seen people squat all up and down the roads here. As opposed to the US where you would absolutely be arrested or fined. (Let’s add putting trash on the ground to this too.) People would think you were crazy. I do think relieving yourself in the ground is probably more natural than having road is, but there are roads and many people so, natural things should be disposed in a tidier place.

  2. Haley

    There’s that adorable kid again!

  3. Sam Thompson

    This sounds like a big health problem. In one sense though, seems like many people in India know that everyone shits- ie They have a clearer view on the human-animal nature. Whereas other, cleaner, parts of the world we pretend that no one has an natural impulses or needs.

  4. Terra

    India is changing quickly. Right now there is a lag between the people with enough money to change accordingly and the poorer population. this always happens when there is quick change, but everyone will catch up! It will just take some time.

  5. Manoj Kargudri

    In India while traveling by public transportation systems like trains and buses, quite commonly it is noticeable that people pass feces/excrement in open areas, besides roads, besides train tracks, beside river banks, in unused lands, etc. Especially in thickly populated areas and with heavy tourist floating populations. There are many solutions to this issue. No doubt, the concerned authorities are aware, and are trying to fix this issue, by taking necessary measures to provide hygienic toilet infrastructure. Probably they have failed miserably. At the least, communication media and elected leaders can send a clear message to cover/bury the facets with sand/mud, so that the virus gets disintegrated and thus preventing the infection through flies and other insects.
    Here are a few more projects dedicated to Indian health and hygiene:

  6. Hans-Christian Vom Kolke

    Much too Long we had the same situation in Europe. Over centuries, people gave their money to the churches or their money was simply taken by the church through “spiritual” pressure: forgiving and heaven for money. I was surprised to find out that Hinduism uses the same money making system.If all this money would be spent to help reducing poverty instead increasing the wealth of Churches or Gurus, the Situation of many people would become much better than it is.

  7. Armin

    I think the difference between the christian and the hindu system is that there is nobody telling the people that they have to spend there money to the temples in hinduism.

    Love Armin

  8. Maggie H. from SC

    I have been wondering why public toilets are so expensive if not free. If it costs 2 to 5 rupees to use a public restroom facility the poor will not use them. Then again, maybe the government does not expect them to. I’m curious as to how this works.

  9. Carl Riviera

    What do you think should be done? Can you foresee this changing in the future? Water contamination worsens severely every day as huge amounts of garbage, worst of all plastics are thrown into the rivers and waterways.

  10. Natalia Smith

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

    Many people all over the world, feeling discouraged from everything they see, forget to fight.
    We can fight!
    And Swami Ji, I think you are fighting the “good fight” in the best kind of way.

  11. Linda Watts

    OMG what an amazing amazing photo! Haha!

  12. Greg

    I totally read that same article in the newspaper. Way to be Suraj.

  13. Kathy Baites

    Polluted drinking water in India is not just India’s problem. Places that can afford proper waste disposal and filtration systems, usually because of countries like India, can’t escape the damage that is being done to the ecosystem there. Water never stays put and we have all seen with global climate change that damage to one ecological territory has drastic effects on others.

  14. Sandra Ochoa from Colombia

    I am really surprised by these statistics. I’ve been to India several times and I would expect that plenty of people don’t have access to bathrooms but I would never of guessed that it was this many.

  15. anonymous

    I am really very surprised that it is not an important part of tradition to cook water and milk before you drink it in India. Does that mean that water and milk have been much safer to drink in the recent past? How long has India had pollution problems.

  16. Rich from Colorado

    Vandana Shiva is an Indian author and intellectual who writes a great deal about the destruction of a traditionally sustainable and environmentally sound lifestyle through the westernization of India. I’d highly recommend any of her works.

  17. Carl Rodgers

    Here is a link to a list of countries by number of billionaires. India is third after the US and China: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_the_number_of_US_dollar_billionaires.Here is a link that lists percentages of national populations living under the international poverty line of 1.25 USD per day. That is 41.6 % of India’s pop. 75.6 percent lives on less than 2 dollars a day. That is unbelievable:

  18. Dave

    It’s simple- if you’ve never seen a toilet before then peeing in one isn’t first on your list of things to do when you are trying to farm all day. Most of India is more modern than that, but some of it isn’t.

  19. Jimmy Kearns

    you know what they say- you can bring a man to a toilet, but you can’t make him pee in it.

  20. George

    Not to mention how unhealthy it gets when there is flooding in areas full of human waste.

  21. Emily

    This is an interesting paradox. I heard that Vrindavan had a sewage line installed underground the same year that they got 3G cell phone networks. Funny how people have these priorities. Is it because they don’t really want to use a toilet? Or are they not aware of the health consequences of not properly disposing of sewage? I guess it’s only a matter of time before everyone will use a toilet in India. Some things progress slower than others, I suppose.

  22. Mirela

    I know that problem from my own country. People in Bosnia tend to spend vast amounts of money for new churches, instead of investing in industry and education, so that less people could be without work. In general this might be the problem of many poor countries: uneven distribution…

  23. Tricia

    In Beijing the babies wear what are called split pants and this makes it easier for them to just pee or poo as it were on the side of the streets. Actually what’s even worse than this is the fact that sometimes rather than finding a toilet in a shopping mall parents bring the children over to the trash can and then they pee there. And at first I was a little disgusted by this, but actually now…I am used to it in a way.

Leave a Comment