Outrage over Rs 35 L spend on Plan Panel toilets

The Plan Panel splurged Rs 35 lakhs on refurbishing two toilets at its headquarters!

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: An Indian who spends Rs 32 a day or more is not poor, as per the Planning Commission’s definition of poor.

However, the same Plan Panel splurges Rs 35 lakhs on refurbishing two toilets at its headquarters!

An RTI query has brought to light this shocking fact, leading to outrage among many. Questions are being asked as to why public exchequer’s money is being spent like this.

Of the Rs 35 lakh spent by the Commission renovating two toilets at Yojana Bhawan, Rs 5.19 lakh were spent on a “door access control system”, which allows only 60 “very high dignitaries” provided with smart cards to use these international airport-grade restrooms.

Plan Panel chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia parried questions on the matter, while an official statement said the expenditure was on routine maintenance.

The Commission also clarified that the toilets were not exclusively meant to be used by just senior people.

Ten people can use the toilet block together at one point of time, it added.

The reply to RTI activist Subhash Agrawal’s application also revealed that the Plan Panel wants to install CCTV cameras in the corridors outside these toilets — to check theft of the bathroom fittings. Estimates of the cost have been sought from the Central Public Works Department.

Another Plan Panel note spells out why this is not money down the drain.

“Things like disturbing/breaking of sanitary appliances are taking place frequently.... Very high dignitaries visit Yojana Bhawan in connection with official work. In addition to this, non-official members of different committees visit Yojana Bhawan for attending meetings,” the note says.

It adds that damaged or defunct sanitary fittings portray the Commission in poor light before the visiting dignitaries.

The Commission’s reply to the RTI plea says: “Cost of installation of door access control system is Rs 5,19,426 for two toilets. Cost of renovation of (the) two toilets... is Rs 30,00,305.”

An earlier noting that proposed the toilet upgrade said these two loos would be renovated as a pilot project, after which a decision would be taken on renovating three other toilets in the building.

The revelations come months after the Commission faced accusations of insensitiveness over its declared poverty criteria: a per head, per day expenditure of Rs 26 in the villages and Rs 32 in urban areas.

(With PTI inputs)