Commission says the toilets are meant for shared public use

A day after a Right to Information query revealed that the Planning Commission had splurged over Rs. 30 lakh on renovating toilets at its headquarters in Delhi, the Commission disputed that it was wasteful expenditure. The Commission said the amount was spent on a set of six “toilet blocks” with multiple seats and facilities for the differently-abled. It also described the renovation as “routine maintenance,” required in an old building having an antiquated plumbing system

The luxury toilets, accessible via a set of smart cards, attracted criticism, with the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party questioning the indulgence at a time when the government was supposedly on an austerity mission. The expenditure is also thought to be ironic in view of the Commission's controversial position that it was possible for an individual to live on a daily earning of Rs.32 in urban areas and Rs. 26 in rural areas. The Commission admitted to releasing the RTI information but said the press ought to have cross-checked the details with it. The information released by the Commission did not specify the number of toilets but said 60 smart cards had been distributed to users belonging to different posts such as “senior adviser, advisers, director, upper division clerks.”

In its statement, however, the Commission said the toilets were meant for shared public use and had been necessitated because of the growing number of visitors to its office. An access-control system had been attempted and given up, it said.

“The toilets being repaired or renovated are public toilet blocks, and not private toilets for senior officials or members. While the amount of Rs. 30 lakh being mentioned is correct, an impression is being created that this has been spent on two toilets. This is totally false, because these toilet blocks have multiple seats in addition to separate facility for the differently-abled. Each of these blocks can be simultaneously used by approximately 10 people.”

The Commission said the first three blocks were completed earlier this year and the other three would be ready later in the year: “These toilet blocks are meant for shared use and are all being renovated to the same standard. Because there have been instances of pilferages of newly constructed toilets, an access-control system was initially tried, but not found feasible. Yojana Bhavan is an important public building and must have the essential facilities. The costing and execution of works is not done by the Planning Commission, but by the CPWD, which is the authorised government agency to do the same. The entire work is being done within the budgetary allocation and following the prescribed procedure.”

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