Blog: Why I don't buy Planning Commission's toilet explanation

Blog: Why I don't buy Planning Commission's toilet explanation
New Delhi:  Renovation raises a stink!

Now that's one story that just lends itself to jibes. And there are plenty of 'not so polite' comments that Twitter has. Just key in 'Planning Commission' to know, at your own risk, might I add (it was one of the top 10 trends on twitter in India after all).

But even, for the sake of argument, if we were to go through the Planning Commission's one-and-a-half page press release, not all my questions are answered.

Why plan on a smart card access system for an office that already has restricted access? It's not that anyone can walk into Yojana Bhawan in the first place. The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, while speaking to the media, said the smart cards were decided on for the safety and security of the women staffers, (later the commission changed its mind) except that the two toilet blocks that have been renovated (and received free publicity for the same) are meant for men. So are women in the office now feeling less safe or disappointed that they have been discriminated against? (since it's just a thought, I'm going to think aloud with this one) If it wasn't feasible, was spending money on now unusable smart cards, the only way to find out if it works? And here is a body that is supposed to be the apex authority for financial outlays and plans for the country (not for a moment am I suggesting that offices or government workplaces should not have a level of hygiene, or that they should be substandard; I'm not focusing on the 30 lakh expenditure).

Sure, the Planning Commission has decided not to go ahead with the plan (on smart cards) because of the feedback it has got, but then what are those 60 smart cards, acquired at the cost of Rs 5 lakh, meant for?

Rs 5 lakh could mean two international holidays for an urban Indian. Or many EMIs for a salaried worker whose bank balance is more responsive to the system of auto debit than his own aspirations. Or a crop loan for more than a year for a farmer who battles the thought of picking up a bottle of pesticide as the money lenders come knocking.

At a time when even scams don't make headlines if they are not in many thousands of crores, Rs 5 lakh is a drop in the cess pool. One may ask: Is it something to lose sleep over? People are taking their own lives for much less. Wonder how much of a stink that would raise!

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