The civic spending on setting up pay-and-use toilets has come down by over 100 per cent, prompting officials and opposition leaders to allege corruption in the earlier projects and link the drop to the furore over “inflated” bills for trident lamps.
The civic finance department has recently cleared an allotment of Rs 6.25 crore for the construction of 60 pay-and-use toilets, a source in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation told Metro.
The cost for setting up each toilet will vary between Rs 9 lakh and Rs 17.25 lakh, depending on the size. The average cost comes to around Rs 10.41 lakh.
Records reveal the civic body had spent as much as Rs Rs 42 crore on setting up 170 such toilets — Rs 24.7 lakh for each on an average — over 10 years till 2011. The Left Front and Trinamul both had been in power in the civic body during the period.
“In the last two years, we had cleared bills of between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 35 lakh for each pay-and-use toilet of around 600sq ft. Last week, we got a bill of Rs 11 lakh for the construction of a 675sq ft toilet at 77 Lenin Sarani (central Calcutta) and Rs 17.25 lakh for a 900sq ft (two-storeyed) toilet in Brahmapur (near Garia). The difference is striking,” said an official in the civic accounts department.
The two toilets will be unveiled before Puja.
The sharp fall in the amount is the talking point at the civic headquarters. “It’s clear that the earlier bills were inflated. We want a full-fledged inquiry to find out why the finance department had cleared the earlier bills,” said CPM councillor Dipankar De, who is also chairman of the municipal accounts committee.
A 600sq ft pay-and-use toilet came up in Taratala during the tenure of the present Trinamul board at a cost of Rs 35 lakh. Which means, the construction cost was Rs 5,883 per square foot, higher than the price of residential flats in some posh localities.
“It is absurd by any standard and calls for a thorough probe,” said Mala Roy, of the Congress.
De said the authorities had arranged for lower bill amounts to avoid a repeat of the controversy surrounding trident lamps.
There have been allegations that the civic body had awarded contracts for installing the lamps without floating a tender, causing a loss to the civic exchequer.
Several informed civic officials Metro spoke to echoed De.
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said he was unaware that so much money had been spent on each pay-and-use toilet. “I am amazed, I don’t have an answer. I have asked the civil engineering department not to follow the PWD schedule blindly. I want more public toilets in the city instead of a few costly showpieces,” Chatterjee said.