Data: More phones than toilets in India

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2012 file photo, Indian squatters use a public toilet after waking up at Park No. 2 near Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India. For thousands of people struggling at the bottom of India\'s working class, the Meena Bazaar parking lot and the handful of places like it scattered across New Delhi are cheap refuges in a city where many migrants can\'t even afford to rent slum shanties. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)

WASHINGTON – Monday marks the beginning of Screen-Free Week, brought on by a need for people to put their phones down instead of using them at all times, such as in the bathroom.

That’s not a problem in India, and not because there’s a shortage of phones.

New data from the Indian census indicates there are more cell phones than toilets in the south Asian country of 1.2 billion people, according to a report from This is striking news for a country where almost half of all people still have to relieve themselves in the open due to no access to clean drinking water or toilets in their homes.

However, 53 percent have a phone, and 47 percent have a television.

“Open defecation continues to be a big concern for the country as almost half of the population do it,” Registrar General and Census Commissioner C. Chandramouli tells BBC News. “Cultural and traditional reasons and a lack of education are the prime reasons for this unhygienic practice. We have to do a lot in these fronts.”

Despite what CIA cites as “significant overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and widespread corruption,” India plays a significant role on the world’s stage, including earning a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011-2012 term, and rapid economic development.

The country’s stark spectrum of richness and poverty was brought to light last October when New Delhi billionaire businessman Vijay Mallya sought to bring Formula One, “the champagne sport,” to the area of his home country with so much deprivation.

“In every country there are the privileged and underprivileged,” Mallya said. “We have underprivileged people in our country, but that doesn’t mean that the country must be bogged down or weighed down.

“The government is doing all it can to address the needs of the poor or the underprivileged people, but India must move on.”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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