India's mobile phone subscribers have now exceeded 563 million, enough to serve nearly half of the country's 1.2 billion population. But just 366 million people ( about a third of the population) had access to proper sanitation in 2008, according to a study by the United Nations University.
"It is a tragic irony to think in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones," so many people "cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," said U.N. University official Zafar Adeel.
Poor sanitation is a major contributor to water-borne diseases, which in the past three years alone killed an estimated 4.5 million children under the age of five worldwide. The cost to build a toilet, including labor, materials and advice, is about $300 The world could expect a return of up to $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation through improved productivity and reduced poverty and health costs, said Adeel.