back to article Lav-less Indians can't get enough of their mobiles

India’s rapid technological ascent in the 21st century appears to have left the nation wanting in a few basic areas after the country’s newly released 2011 Census revealed that more households own a mobile phone than an indoor toilet. The stats show that 46.9 per cent of Indian households have latrine facilities inside and …


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  1. dotdavid
    Thumb Up

    Only way

    "many users are growing up in a world where the mobile internet is the online way they access the web."

    Well, I guess it beats the offline way.

  2. Chris Miller

    “piped sewer system” familiar to western toilet-goers

    Except those in France, of course.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A mobile phone is more affordable than an indoor toilet; you can buy a phone for 10 pounds, and all the infrastructure is provided for you on a pay-as-you-go basis.

    I flushing toilet is more expensive and requires connection to infrastructure that, in many places in the world, doesn't exist.

    It seems bizarre that, in the 21st century, many people lack basic facilities but advanced technology is cheap enough to be ubiquitous.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: PAYG

      I think it's one more example of how it can take a while for someone to get from A to B, but once someone does, others can get to B more easily. A bit like solving a long maths problem. It might seem odd that someone else has the answer without all the intermediary steps, but once the answer is known, people don't have to do all the intermediary steps for themselves.

  4. Annihilator

    Missed op

    Surely a missed opportunity to describe it as "downloading more advanced than brownloading"?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What puzzles me

    I get the whole issue about crapping outside because there's no infrastructure to plumb a toilet in, although some of them could take a bit more care like not doing it in the middle of a busy walking area.

    What I don't get is how the Government is happy to develop nuclear weapons at considerable cost but not provide a few bin trucks to at least attempt a bit of clear up of excess rubbish.

    1. Lockwood

      Re: What puzzles me

      Combine them!


      "It's not a bio-weapon; it's waste disposal!"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What puzzles me

      Well those of us who have little option but to "do it" in the middle of a busy walking area don't really give a s**t whether it causes you or anyone else inconvenience. (Sorry couldn't resist but that's how it is - really...)

      The fact that there are more mobile phones than basic sanitation facilities for Indians to live their lives with dignity is actually part of the larger unfortunate situation that in India basic infrastructure is found severely lacking but relative luxuries are in abundance.

      So you have more mobile phones than toilets, world class airports but a pathetic road network (cities/towns in North America with 1/10th the population of their Indian counterparts have better/more roads), top end hotels and restaurants with world class service but countless going hungry. The government for the last 60 years is to be blamed for that, as we are for accepting the state we find ourselves in.

      That doesn't imply the government doesn't need to spend the money on defence that we do. We aren't as fortunate as England to be in NATO where a much bigger military power takes care of your national satefy needs. We aren't as fortunate as England is today to have neighbours who don't have missles on standby pointing in their direction. And finally, we aren't as fortunate as England was to have a vast empire so we could commission something like the British Indian Army to fight our fights. Would England return an old favour and commision its soldiers today to help India fight militancy and prevent infiltration at our borders with Pakistan and China in dangerous conditions and hostile weather?

      No I don't think so. SO we need our nuclear weapons.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This isn't really surprising, the infrastructure for a proper loo is massive and the recipient gain something they're used to doing without.

    The infrastructure for cheap mobile 'phones piggy-backs on the infrastructure for expensive mobile 'phones* and provides something completely new and useful in a number of ways that we're incapable of appreciating in the west.

    *Rich people tend to travel - it's no good just putting mobile 'phone infrastructure in wealthy areas.

  7. Ben Rosenthal

    wow, I take it they're not smartphones then? No point owning one of those if you don't have a toilet to sit on.

  8. implicateorder


    The problem is a massive logistical one. The biggest cause of inequitable population densities in Urban India is because of migration of low-wage, daily-labor workers into the big cities.

    I would guess that 80-90% of the population in Asia's largest ghetto (Dharavi in Mumbai) is comprised of that. The process of providing proper "facilities" to such a dynamic and large population is highly complex.

    I would also venture to guess that in rural India, the population density is not that great and what the governments should be doing is developing these areas (and I am certain efforts are underway toward that end). The mass exodus of rural citizens into urban centers is what needs to be looked at. What kind of incentives can be provided to them, how can they be empowered to live in the rural areas (associated viable livelihood, etc)...

    As far as technology goes...yeah mobile technology is definitely more pervasive in India than other forms and as some one pointed out, the price point is reasonably affordable by most individuals. With the advent of smart phones and cheap tablets, their "connectedness" will also increase. I give it another 5 years.

    There are already private projects underway to provide "e-banking, e-credit" facilities to remote parts of rural India. Once these take off, suddenly the financial abilities of the "lav-less indian" will increase. Who knows, he might even be able to "brownload" and "download" simultaneously.

    BTW, being an Indian Citizen, I find this article (and certain comments) in bad taste. The sense of incredulity is typical of spoilt brats who taken things for granted and have a false sense of entitlement. Instead of looking at how this technology might be helping the poor stay connected and try and improve their lot in life, we get snide commentary on their "lav-less-ness"!

  9. DoingMyHeadIn

    cells and loos

    Totally agree with @implicateorder

    It takes a lot less infrastructure investment to provide subsidised mobiles, associated infrastructure and call charges than a sea of copper landlines. It is clever strategy seen all over Asia, but obviously not in Europe/US where that investment decision was made pre-IT and now needs to be maintained.

    Internet provision is seen in India as a luxury item (whether by copper broadband or 3G) and so is costed and taxed appropriately. On the other hand mobile call charges are priced ridiculously low in comparison to the West.

    But going back to the provision of loos, the vast majority of toilets are not connected to mains sewerage even in quite prosperous households, at least outside of cities. modern (bio) septic tanks are the order of the day and 'grey water' treatment stategies are increasingly common. This has the much needed benefit of tackling water shortages.

    India is a really complex society - it demeans Westerners to make facile and 'easy' statements as if they understand India.

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