March 18, 2012

India: more mobile phones than toilets

This isn't new, so it isn't news:  India, with a population of around 1.2 billion people is home to more mobile phones than toilets, and more mobile phones than people who have easy access to clean drinking water.

These statistics are announced every couple of years (see links below, from the UN in 2010), as if the finding is astonishing.  It isn't.

Mere lack of sanitation, no big deal?  Well, it is if you don't want to die young from easily avoidable diseases.  Or if you're a girl wanting an education, but not getting one, because the school has no toilets, so rather than be embarrassed, you don't go to school.

There are a lot of big myths, about emerging superpowers - you know, the countries that are or will knock America off the perch.  China, India, Russia, or how about Brazil?

Yes, those countries are all growing in wealth, and have humongous populations, but the dizzying heights of their wealth and superpowerdom entail average annual incomes increasing to a few thousand dollars a year  of  rather than a few hundred or a few dollars.  See, it doesn't matter how big the total, nor even the average, these emerging economies remain a few lifetimes away from the wealth of first world countries.

That India or China are touted as economic giants bound for world domination is conceit and deceit.  Not to mention a bit perverted.

It's almost comical that ownership of mobile phones is touted as making the world smaller, bringing prosperity to poor countries, opening up business opportunities - all true, in some small manner; however it is small, very small. 

Around 700 million Indians do not have access to toilets:  that's two thirds of the population.  That means they piss and crap in the open, all over the country.  Clean drinking water?  You don't even want to think about what they're drinking.  Access to cheap Coke would be a better option. 

If you think "mobile phone" equates to Internet access, you'd also be misreading things:  only three per cent of Indians have access to the Internet at home.  While we're at it, only 2.3 per cent of Indian households have a car - no bad thing, given they have no roads upon which to drive them. 

Is it any wonder that the first world gets twitchy over emerging economies?  Just think of the carbon dioxide levels if even 50 per cent of Indian or Chinese households had a car, or electricity at home? 

Oh, but we clever humans are going to "reverse" the temperature by one or two or three degrees, in 100 years time, despite being so stupid, so politically, socially and economically illiterate, so wantonly inequitable in the distribution of basic resources, that a country with more than a billion people living in their own shit is touted as an economic powerhouse, a modern success story. 

When, I wonder, do we stop kidding ourselves?

Why India is not a superpower 

Experiencing India's bathrooms first hand 

2009 - In India, more women demand toilets before marriage 

2010 - UN reports - India has more mobile phones than toilets 

2012 - yes, big surprise - India still has more mobile phones than toilets (The Australian, behind paywall) 

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