Luxury toilet row raises stink for Indian govt
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”.
“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.
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.