Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Wednesday justified the expenditure amounting to Rs 35 lakh on renovating two toilets in Yojana Bhawan saying it was within the budget. Montek said there was nothing wrong in the upgradation of toilets.
"This is under the Planning Commission renovation work and within the budget. This is a decision taken by the administration. There is nothing wrong, we have tried to clean up the facilities. If the buildings are being improved, I think this is good," Montek said.
He also said that there was no restriction on the usage of the toilets. "There is no restriction on the usage of the toilets that have been renovated. It is the CPWD that decides on this, we just place the requirement numbers," Montek said.
"This is a 50-year-old building. The work is done by CPWD. All the toilets at the Planning Commission are being upgraded," he added.
Earlier, the Planning Commission had issued a statement slamming the reports of wasteful expenses on renovating two toilets in Yojana Bhawan calling it a routine maintenance and upgradation.
An RTI enquiry had revealed that Rs 35 lakh was recently spent on renovating two toilets in Yojana Bhawan, where the Planning Commission is located. The renovation included installation of CCTVs in the corridor. Around Rs 5 lakh was also spent on a smart card system to limit entry to the toilets.
According to the RTI reply, 60 smart cards have been issued to the officials of the Planning Commission which have to be used to get access to the toilets. The Commission had also decided to install CCTV cameras in the corridors leading to these toilets as the officials said there were instances of pilferage in the toilets. Estimates have been sought from the CPWD.
Apart from the poverty line estimates issue, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had come under criticism after a newspaper, based on RTI reply, reported that foreign travel expense incurred by him between May and October, 2011 was a staggering Rs 2.02 lakh per day. Another report said that he undertook 42 official trips (between June 2004-January 2011) of 274 days at a cost of Rs 2.34 crore. Refuting the inferences drawn in the later editorials, Ahluwalia had said that foreign travels are necessary for discharge of official duties.
The report raises big questions:
- Is a decent toilet in a government office a waste of public money?
- Is Montek Singh being singled out because of the poverty line debate?
- Is Rs 35 lakh for two toilets an extravagance?