Due to the air conditioner (AC), we can sleep peacefully even in the scorching heat. Access to air-conditioners (ACs) can have an exceptionally huge effect on one's capacity to adapt to summer in enormous parts of the country. It is difficult to ascertain from traditional sources of data on assets in Indian households how many households currently have ACs. The 2011 decadal census, which has data on different sorts of resources like radio/television or bikes/vehicles or PC and the internet didn't look for data about responsibility.
But the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS) asks households whether they have ACs. The problem with this is that families with air coolers have also been considered as having ACs. Therefore, now the Multiple Indicators Survey (MIS) is the only source of official data left to know how many households in the country have ACs. It may be noted that MIS was conducted for the first time in 2020-21, the results of which were published in March.
Top 5% Indians have 53% of total AC
Multiple Indicator Service (MIS) not only tells us whether a house has AC or not, but it also tells us how many ACs are there in which house. This figure shows the huge wealth gap between Indian households. Since the MIS is just a survey, its figures may not be exact but approximate. In response to the question of how many ACs are there in which house, the data shows that only the top 5% of the richest Indians have 53% of the country and the top 10% of the richest have 72% of the ACs in the houses, reported news agency Hindustan Times.
Air Conditioner availability
It is clear from the class-based AC ownership itself that it is largely a facility available to well-to-do families in cities and even there. Only 1.2% of rural households have at least one AC as compared to 12.6% of urban households. However, AC is not everywhere even in urban areas. People living in slums often do not have thatched roofs, due to which their house starts spewing fire in summer. A study conducted by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Mumbai found that slum houses are five to six degrees Celsius hotter than flats in neighboring housing societies.
However, according to the MIS, slums had about half as many ACs as other areas of the city. This means that people do not live in disorganised areas like slums just for economic reasons. The truth is that almost one-tenth of India's richest 10% live in these haphazardly populated areas. Hence, even slums have about four to six times more ACs than rural areas.
Increase in number of ACs in homes
The MIS data also reflects that how long a household has had an AC. This shows that 50% of residential ACs were purchased only three years ago and 80% of total ACs were purchased a maximum of five years ago. The data shows that only 2% of ACs in Indian homes are more than a decade old.
Most families renting AC
The MIS also asks households how much they have spent on average on durable goods like ACs in the last year. Among the families who installed AC a year back, 80% told that their expenditure on durable goods in this one year is less than Rs 25,000, so it clearly means that they have not bought AC. There are two reasons for this – one, the average cost of AC is more than Rs 25,000, and secondly, no one buys only AC in durable items in a year. In such a situation, if a family spends only Rs 25,000 on durable goods in a year, it means that it has not bought the AC but has rented it.
Half of such people said they spent Rs 5,000 or less on durables in a year while 20% said they did not spend any on durables in a year. It is clear from this that either people are not giving correct information or else they have taken AC on rent. Whatever the reason, these figures cannot be trusted much. But it is also true that MIS alone provides the data of ACs in the houses of the country.