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Indian government defends $54,000 toilets

08:00 AEST Fri Jun 8 2012
MSN NZ and AFP
Cost of toilets cause outrage in India (Thinkstock)
Cost of toilets cause outrage in India (Thinkstock)

India's Planning Commission, which plots the country's economic future, defended itself on Wednesday over a 3 million rupee ($54,100) bill for upgrading toilets.

The cost sparked outrage after a local activist unearthed the figure through a Right To Information request about work done on toilets at the commission's headquarters in New Delhi.

The commission was forced to deny media reports that only two individual toilets were renovated and that they were reserved for senior staff who would access them via an electronic card system.

"It is unfortunate that what is routine maintenance and upgradation is being projected as wasteful expenditure," it said in a press release.

According to the statement, the money will be used to renovate six toilet blocks, each of which can each be used by "approximately" 10 people.

"The toilets being repaired or renovated are public toilet blocks, and not private toilets for senior officials... these toilet blocks have multiple seats."

The commission justified the high cost saying that "old plumbing and sewerage systems had deteriorated, and needed almost complete replacement".

The influential body, which draws up India's five-year economic plans, faced flak in March when it released poverty-related data which claimed that any Indian who spent just 44 cents a day was not "absolutely poor".