Hit by adverse publicity, the cost of super luxury toilets in the country's top advisory body the Planning Commission has halved.
The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) on Friday told panel member secretary Sindhushree Khullar that two modern toilet blocks had cost about Rs 15 lakh, as against the earlier figure of Rs 35 lakh.
The plan panel had received a lot of flak for building such high-end toilets when it was classifying those earning less than R32 in urban areas per day as poor. Plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia had justified the spending saying it was not exorbitant and done as per government rules. He had termed the comparison of toilet cost with poverty figures as unfortunate.
Now it has come to light that the cost of toilets was stated higher than what was spent. The CPWD officials also reportedly admitted to this faux pas before Khullar, who threatened to get the engineers concerned suspended. But the question is why the plan panel did not get the mistake rectified before disbursing funds to the CPWD after the toilets were constructed. Documents accessed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal indicate that never an attempt was made by the plan panel to get the initial estimate of the toilets revised. The panel went by what the CPWD quoted.
The panel, which has already paid to CPWD for construction of two toilets, will now ask the department for a refund. “They (CPWD) officials have categorically been told to refund the excess amount,” he said.
However, it is not known whether the panel will initiate action against its own senior officials who never objected to high cost estimate given by CPWD. Panel functionaries also said there should be detailed inquiry into the lapse at the part of official in-charge of administration in the panel.