Economic Survey 2020-21: Vol 1 Ch 10: The Bare Necessities

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Access to the bare necessities such as housing, water, sanitation, electricity, and the clean cooking fuel is a sine qua non to live a decent life. Hence the economic survey 2020-21 dedicated an entire chapter in examining the progress made in providing access to the bare necessities by constructing a Bare Necessities Index (BNI) at the rural, urban, and all India level. In order to focus on providing these bare necessities to the people.

The idea that economic development can be viewed as a process of providing the bare necessities of life to citizens has been around in India is not new. The importance of providing bare necessities is also equally stressed by SDGs with its goals SDG6(clean water), SDG7(clean fuel and electricity).

In order to improve access to the bare necessities such as housing, water, sanitation, electricity, and clean cooking fuel the successive governments have made constant efforts. The network of schemes designed to deliver these necessities includes the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY), Saubhagya, and Ujjwala Yojana.

Before going into the concept of the Bare necessities index let us briefly understand the objectives of the above schemes and their achievement over years.

Scheme Objective Achievement
Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

SBM Rural:

  • To attain Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2nd October 2019.
  • Providing access to toilet facilities to all rural households in the country.

SBM Urban:

  • to achieve 100%Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
  • 100% scientific processing of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) being generated in the country.
  • Rural sanitation coverage has made an incredible leap in the target achievement with more than 10 crore toilets built across rural India.
  • 4,327 Urban Local Bodies
    (ULBs) have been declared ODF so far.
  • Construction of 66 lakhs
    individual household toilets and over 6 lakhs community/ public toilets since the inception of the scheme.
Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY)
  • PMAY intends to provide housing for all in urban and rural areas by 2022.
  • 41.3 lakh houses have been built for the beneficiaries under PMAY(U) since the inception of the scheme in
    June 2015.
  • Since 2014-15, construction of approx. 1.94 crore rural houses have been completed.
NRDWP, now Jal Jeevan Mission
  • Provide safe and adequate water for drinking, cooking, and other domestic needs to every rural person on a sustainable basis.
  • A functional tap water connection (FTWC) every rural household by 2024.
  •  get an assured supply of potable piped water at a  service level of 55 liters per capita per day.
  • Up to 16th January 2021, so far about 3.2 crores of rural households have been provided with FTWC
    since the launch of the Mission.
Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana
  • To achieve universal household electrification by providing electricity connections.
  • All States have declared electrification of all households on the Saubhagya portal, except 18,734 households in Left Wing Extremists (LWE) affected areas of Chhattisgarh.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
  • To provide clean cooking fuel to poor households with a target to provide 8 crore deposit free LPG connection.
  • The connection is provided in the name of an adult woman member of a poor family and the beneficiary has an option to avail connection with 14.2 kg or 5 kg cylinder.
  • Target to provide 8 crores new LPG connections have been achieved 7 months in advance of the target date.

To measure the progress in the delivery of the bare necessities, the Survey developed a composite index called the Bare Necessities Index (BNI)

Bare Necessities Index (BNI)

The BNI measures access to the bare necessities for households in rural areas, urban areas, and at the all India level. These necessities are measured using 26 comparable indicators on five dimensions. In the period 2012-2018 using data from two NSO rounds viz., 69th and 76th on Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition in India.

  • Water
  • Sanitation
  • Housing
  • Micro-environment
  • Other Facilities
Analysis of the BNI report

In this analysis let us briefly discuss the performance of states on the overall BNI index and next on each dimension of the BNI index.


  • The access to bare necessities for the households in 2018 is significantly better compared to 2012.
  • In rural India, the highest access to bare necessities in 2018 is recorded in Punjab, Kerala, Sikkim, Goa, and Delhi, while the lowest in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand,
    West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Manipur, and Tripura.
  • In urban India, no State is showing the lowest level of BNI in 2018.
  • Variation in the access to bare necessities across states and between rural and urban remained large.
  • States that had a low level of access to bare necessities in 2012 have gained relatively more between 2012 and 2018.
  • The access to bare necessities has improved disproportionately more for the poorest households when compared to the richest households across India (urban + rural).


  • Access to drinking water to households in most of the States has improved in 2018 except for Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh in urban areas.
  • Regional disparities have increased in 2018 despite such disparities declining in urban areas. This is because these disparities have increased in rural areas.
  • Across all groups, equity in access to drinking water increased in 2018.

SANITATION INDEX – measures physical as well as the quality of access to sanitation

  • Sanitation access has improved for all States in rural areas and for most of the States in urban areas.
  • Regional disparities in access to sanitation have declined when compared to 2012.
  • The inter-State difference in access to sanitation is still large, especially in rural areas.

HOUSING INDEX – measures the quality of the house and the condition of structure.

  • Access to housing has improved in all States, except urban areas in few States.
  • The inter-State disparities have also declined.
  • The gaps in the levels across states have been large, especially in rural areas.
  • Equity: Improvement in access to housing has also been disproportionately greater for the lowest income group when compared to the highest income group.

MICRO-ENVIRONMENT INDEX – measures the access to drainage and the environmental conditions surrounding the household.

  • The micro-environment index has improved for all States except in Assam and Odisha(urban).
  • Regional disparities have declined sharply when compared to 2012.
  • urban-rural gaps are large.

OTHER FACILITIES INDEX – captures access to bathroom, electricity, cooking fuel, and availability of kitchen.

  • Access to other facilities for households has improved in all States, except urban areas in Himachal Pradesh.
  • The inter-State disparities have also declined.
  • The equity in access to other facilities has improved in rural and urban areas.
  • The gaps are still high across the State in rural, between rural and urban in the States, between income groups, and between rural and urban income groups.
Health and Educational Outcomes


  • Access to improved sanitation and reduced open defecation significantly reduces the risk of contracting diarrhea in children.
  • Access to the piped water and sanitation is critical in reducing child mortality substantially.
  • Access to clean cooking fuel improves child health. By reducing household air pollution and thereby reducing respiratory illnesses in both mother and child.
  • Better household and water make the people concentrate on better food and nutrition.


  • Water hauling, a daily activity, consume substantial time and effort of a household. Better water supply helps to increase girl's school attendance.
  • Access to the latrine in schools substantially reduces the dropouts of pubescent-age girls.
  • Proper electrification in the household also helps the child to study extra hours at home and ensures better educational outcomes.

However, while improvements in access to bare necessities are evident, the disparities in access to bare necessities continue to exist between rural-urban, among income groups, and also across States. There should be effective targetting of beneficiaries and empowerment of local bodies with convergence across various departments to enable India to achieve the SDG goals of reducing poverty, improving access to drinking water, sanitation and housing by 2030.

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