The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 6 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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RTI peek reveals Rs 35-lakh toilets

New Delhi, June 5 (PTI): The Planning Commission’s definition of poor: those who can spend less than Rs 32 a day.

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.

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.