Luxury toilet row raises stink for Indian govt

June 6, 2012

Every morning, Dharma picks up a bottle of water and heads to a field to defecate. His wife goes to a public toilet nearby. The 29-year-old cobbler has been living and working in India’s capital for over ten years now, but he still does not have a toilet in his house. Just like millions of Indians.

The employees of the Planning Commission, a government agency, are luckier. They can unburden their bowels in toilets that have been refurbished with a budget of 3 million rupees ($55,000). An additional 500,000 rupees ($9,000) has been spent in installing a security system that ensures only those with a “smart card” can enter.

The expenditure has some politicians and activists up in arms, with members of opposition parties calling it “shocking”.

On Twitter, both anger and amusement were expressed as “Rs 35“, a reference to the total expenditure of 35 lakh rupees (approx $63,000), started trending.

“From today onwards #Planning comm can be renamed as ‘Potty commission'” says @Ahmedshabbir20

“Peoples are dying due to starving and special govt officials using bathroom of Rs 35 Lakh !!!!” says @cool_move

The revelation comes on the heels of the government announcing austerity measures to control India’s spiralling fiscal deficit. It now appears as if the gaffe-prone leaders continue to put their own comfort before the economic and social needs of the country.

Even though a sanitation organisation has designed eco-friendly toilets for villages that cost as little as $15, more than fifty percent of Indian households do not have a latrine.

A 2010 World Bank report had estimated that inadequate sanitation costs Asia’s third-largest economy nearly $54 billion annually. Premature deaths, treatment for the sick, wasted time and productivity, were cited as the main reasons for the high loss.

The Planning Commission has justified the expenditure by calling it “routine maintenance and upgradation“.

“…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 ten people,” it said in a press release.

But with millions squatting in the fields, this money could have been used to build thousands of latrines for poor India. Perhaps the babus can ponder over this as they relieve themselves in their swanky, new toilets. After all, providing economic stability and dignity of life to their countrymen should be a part of their job description too.


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I won’t be surprised if an actor to the stature of Amir Khan or Amitabh Bachchan in India takes this issue seriously and appear on TV with a fanciful title (of their choice) so that the larger public understand the importance of installing a toilet and using at home.

‘Use toilet at home today and win exciting prizes’ could be an appropriate tag-line for sponsors on the show. Just a thought.

Posted by AdadaAds | Report as abusive

It is a real shame on the part of Nation of not being able to provide a two time meal to a poor man rather than spending it over their own luxury and the maintenance of their offices….!!! No matter how hard the government try to develop the country but still it is a very hard fact to digest that there is a section of the society that is unprivileged and unseen…..

Posted by Shadowofheart | Report as abusive