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Friday, June 8, 2012


Now it seems it also has a definition for “very high dignitaries”: those who use toilets that cost Rs 17.5 lakh.

The Commission has spent Rs 35 lakh renovating two toilets at its headquarters Yojana Bhawan, an RTI reply has revealed.

Of this, Rs 5.19 lakh went into a “door access control system”, which allows only 60 people provided with smart cards to use these international airport-grade restrooms.

The reply to activist Subhash Agrawal’s application also reveals 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.
Here’s what the two toilets comprise of:

•    12 taps (Jaquar)
•    2 Geysers (Crompton greaves 15ltr)
•    2 Hand Drayer (Avro)
•    2 Napkin dispensers (Euronics)
•    2 Soap dispensers (Euronics)
•    8 Urinal Pots (Hindware art)
•    8 Toilet sheet (Hindware)
•    2 Exhaust fans (Marathon electric local)
•    2 sinks (local small size)
•    2 dustbins (local)
About 350 square feet of marble flooring and tiling on walls.

When questioned on the controversy, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told reporters that expenditure of Rs. 35 lakh is not on two toilets but it is really a "major modernisation of toilet blocks in the Planning Commission which is a 50 year old building".
"When we needed to renovate it, we were told that both plumbing and pipes, not of individual toilet, but entire toilet block needed to be replaced... electricty work had to be replaced," he said.
Ahluwalia said this is part of the Planning Commission's renovation and upgradation program in which renovation of all the public toilets has to be done in two years.

On the issue of access control system in the toilets, Ahluwalia said, it was for the ladies toilets because of security issues but later it was felt that it was not right and the project was dropped.
Received complaints on quality standards
Earlier, clarifying the expenditure on two toilets, the Yojana Bhawan had said that the building is a 50-year-old structure and so is the sewage system. The building is visited by thousands of people every year including many foreign delegates. The authorities have often received complaints on not maintaining a quality standard in the toilets. Hence, they undertook the renovation process. It is now learnt that now all officials in the building will have access to these toilets and not just a handful of dignitaries.

The Yojana Bhawan is however unhappy with the media taking up the issue in a bad light. 

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.

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