New Delhi: The government on Tuesday disputed a report released last week by WaterAid, an international NGO, that more than 732 million Indians defecate in the open or in unsafe or unhygienic toilets.

The report, ‘Out of Order—The State of the World’s Toilets 2017,’ also claimed that India has the highest number of women—355 million—waiting for a toilet.

In a statement, the ministry of drinking water and sanitation said that WaterAid’s findings extrapolated data for the period between 2000 and 2015 and missed out the progress made under the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission.

This report quotes data from the World Health Organisation (WHO)-Unicef joint monitoring programme (JMP), which extrapolates sanitation data based on available data from past studies between 2000 and 2015, the ministry said.

“This means it misses out on most of the progress under the Swachh Bharat Mission which aims to eradicate open defecation from the country by October 2019," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry claimed that this point has not been mentioned in the report by WaterAid, thereby misleading readers into believing that this is the present status of sanitation in India.

“Recognizing that such an unprecedented commitment to bringing so many people out of open defecation in such a short span of time has no parallels anywhere in the world, the JMP, in the same report, inserted a special section with high praise for the rapid results being seen under the Swachh Bharat Mission, and stating that their report does not capture a lot of the work done since 2015, and hence the data is not up to date," it said.

The ministry said the disparity between the numbers mentioned in the WaterAid report and reality was extremely stark. The ministry claimed that it maintains a detailed household level database of sanitation coverage on its website, which is also open to the public.

The report said that “355 million women and girls are still waiting for a toilet.".

“This is a total departure from reality. The same JMP report confirms that as on June 2017, the total number of people defecating in the open in India has reduced to 350 million, and this has further come down to below 300 million people as on November 2017. The report also mentions that 56% of people in India lack access to safe sanitation, whereas the present number is down to about 28%," the ministry statement said.

Calling the report “factually incorrect and irresponsible", the statement said a WaterAid India team has been working closely with the ministry and the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (rural), and is fully aware of the ground work, macro-statistics and overall progress.