The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, through its nodal media agency Press Information Bureau, claimed on June 12 that 97% of schools in the country had hand-washing facilities and girls’ toilet facilities. The claim was to highlight the infrastructural growth achieved by the current regime in the last eight years.
The Press Information Bureau also claimed that only 45% of schools had hand washing facilities and 91% had girls’ toilet facilities during the United Progressive Alliance regime in 2013-’14.
This was when the Centre had claimed seven years ago that all government schools had functional separate toilets for girls and boys.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on August 15, 2014, announced the Swacch Vidyalaya Abhiyan, or Clean Schools Movement, to ensure access to separate functional toilets for boys and girls in all schools within one year. A year later, the government declared that 4.17 lakh toilets had been constructed and made functional in 2.61 lakh schools.
The Centre further claimed that India had achieved the target of providing 100% access to functional toilets in all government schools across the country. The claimed achievement was also lauded by the then Union Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani.
This claim is not true even now, seven years later, and all government schools still do not have separate toilets for girls and boys. In 2020-’21, 95.8% of government schools had separate toilets for boys and 90.8% had functional ones. On the other hand, 97.45% of government schools had toilets for girls and 93.3% had those that were functional in 2020-’21, showed Unified District Information System for Education report.
Claim 1: Hand wash facility was available in 45% of schools in 2013-’14 and in 2020-’21 it is 97% schools.
Fact: The first part of the claim is misleading. Till 2015-’16, Unified District Information System for Education had separate reports for the performance of elementary schools (Class 1 to Class 8) and secondary schools (Class 9 to Class 12).
According to the reports, hand-washing facilities were almost 44.6% in elementary schools and 58.14% in secondary schools. But the Centre cherry-picked data to show the maximum difference and only showed 45% without specifying the section of schools.
Data related to this facility in reports between 2013-’14 and 2015-’16 are classified as “Hand Wash Facilities Available Near Toilets”, while that during 2016-’17 to 2020-’21 falls under “Schools with Hand Wash Facilities”. There is no mention of any change in criteria over the years and if from 2016-’17 location of the hand-washing facilities in schools was not taken into account.
The reports showed a massive jump in the availability of hand wash facilities in schools in a year – from 58.13% in 2017-’18 to 88.20% in 2018-’19.
About hand-washing facilities in 2020-’21, the central government’s claim is false. According to Unified District Information System for Education 2020-’21 report, 91.9% of schools have hand wash facilities and not 97% as claimed in the Press Information Bureau tweet. Private unaided schools lead in this category with 92.72% of them offering students with hand-washing facilities, followed by government schools (92.42%), government-aided schools (90.11%) and others (81.83%).
In all, only nine states and Union Territories have achieved the 100% status of schools with hand washing facilities – Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Lakshadweep, Goa, Delhi, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (clubbed in the report), Chandigarh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The worst performing state is Meghalaya with 34.15% of schools with the facility.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has pointed out major discrepancies in the data collected by the Unified District Information System for Education regarding hand wash infrastructure in schools. According to a 2018 Comptroller and Auditor General audit report, the government had instructed Central Public Sector Enterprises to provide running water and hand washing facilities in 2,612 toilets in order to effectively change the behaviour of students. However, the survey found that 72% of constructed toilets had no running water facilities inside and 55% had no hand washing facilities at all.
Claim 2: Girls’ toilets facilities were available in 91% schools in 2013-’14 and in 2020-’21 this figure reached 97%.
Fact: This is misleading.
The 2013-’14 Elementary Education in India Report seems to have an error as it has more functional toilets than constructed toilets – 84.6% of schools had girls’ toilets and 91.62% had functional girls’ toilets. If the figure is reversed, the Modi government’s claim is falsified.
In the 2013-’14 report for secondary sections, 94.96% of schools had girls’ toilets, but there is no mention of functional toilets in this report.
In the latter part of the claim, while the central government claimed that 97% of schools had girls’ toilets, this is again not true for functional toilets. According to the 2020-’21 Unified District Information System for Education report, 97.32% of schools in the country had girls’ toilets, but almost 50,959 of them did not have functional toilets. This brought the share of schools with functional girls’ toilets to 93.91%.
Moreover, the report showed that there are more girls’ toilets than boys’ toilets in schools. While 96.2% of schools had separate toilets for boys, 92.17% had functional ones.
Overall, only six states and Union Territories have achieved the 100% status of schools with functional girls’ toilets – Chandigarh, Delhi, Goa, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Punjab. Meghalaya ranks the lowest with 68.75 % of schools with the facility.
The 2018 Comptroller and Auditor General survey also highlighted gaps in toilet infrastructure in schools. The Central Public Sector Enterprises reported the construction of 2,612 toilets, but the auditors found that 200 of these toilets had not been constructed in the respective schools and 86 toilets were only partially constructed.
Of the 1,967 co-educational schools surveyed by Comptroller and Auditor General, 27% had zero or just one functional toilet. “The objective of providing separate toilets for boys and girls was not fulfilled in these 535 cases (27%),” the report read.
According to the Annual Status Education Report (Rural) 2018, 11.5% of rural schools had no separate toilets for girls. While some schools had separate girls’ toilets, 10.5% were locked and 11.7% were locked and unusable.
Another incident that brought the data gap to light was when the Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal, called out the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for lack of usable toilets in four schools in Delhi on May 23. “The toilet is locked, children go out to defecate,” she tweeted. “No teachers in classes, no guards to protect children... Will India study like this?”
Functional girls’ toilets have only marginally increased in the last four years – from 93.37% in 2017-’18 to 93.91% in 2020-’21. However, during 2016-’17, this figure stood at 94.37%, which means that the share of schools with functional girls’ toilets dropped by one percentage point in the following year and in the five years it has dropped too.
Moreover, only 25.25% of schools have toilets constructed specifically for children with special needs and 24.25% of schools have functional ones.
Of over 15 lakh schools in the country, 3.8 lakh have children with special needs-friendly toilets and of these 3.65 lakh are usable. Punjab is the only state to have 100% schools with children with special needs-friendly functional toilets. This is followed by Delhi (99.59%). Once again, Meghalaya is at the bottom with only 2.23% of schools with children with special needs friendly toilets.
FactChecker tried contacting Jaideep Bhatnagar, Principal Director General and Vasudha Gupta, Director General of Press Information Bureau via email and call for clarification on the claims but had not received a response by the time of publishing this article. As and when we do, it shall be updated here.
This article first appeared on FactChecker.in, a publication of the data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.