The Planning Commission has drawn flak for spending Rs.35 lakh on two toilets in its Yojana Bhavan headquarters. But when it comes to the 'economics of sanitation', there's no beating the Rs. 20 lakh shelled out by the Goa government to build a single public toilet in Margao, the constituency of former chief minister Digambar Kamat.
Kamat, who was chief minister till March this year, told the Goa assembly last year that the state government had given funds to build the toilet, with an air-conditioner operated by sensors, in his constituency in association with sanitation specialists Sulabh International.
Kamat even went on to give a graphic description of the toilet before the house spent several minutes discussing the prospects, virtues and ills of the air-conditioned lavatory in Margao, located 35 km from here.
"The Margao garden is considered the most prestigious garden in the state. So what if there is an AC toilet? Once it is ready, a split AC could be fitted later," Kamat said, adding that the air-conditioner in the toilet was sensor operated.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Vijay Pai Khot, a theatre artist, popular for his sense of humour, had said: "Are you (chief minister Kamat) really serious about having an AC toilet? It is a closed space...If someone uses it, the whole toilet will smell."
Known for his acerbic wit, then leader of opposition and now chief minister Manohar Parrikar red-flagged the concept citing an even more compelling argument.
"It's an air-conditioned toilet. If someone steps into an AC toilet, he will not like to come out of it," Parrikar said.
Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who had infamously suggested some months back that the definition of urban poor be upgraded to a person earning Rs. 28 per day, has, however, tried to formally clarify the Planning Commission's stance on the toilet issue.
"It is unfortunate that what is routine maintenance and upgradation is being projected as wasteful expenditure... The impression is being created that this has been spent on two toilets. That is totally false because these can be used by 10 people simultaneously," Ahluwalia has said.