Just the cost of a single Rafale fighter — MoD is finalizing the acquisition of 126 of these French jets in the almost $20 billion MMRCA project — could make 1,000 village panchayats “free from open-defecation”, said Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.
MoD got Rs 1.93 lakh crore allocation this fiscal, while the rural development budget was only Rs 99,000 crore, he added, taking recourse to the long-running “guns versus bread” debate.
Defence minister A K Antony, triggering guffaws from the audience, retorted that DRDO would certainly provide his ministry with the bio-toilet technology, but it was up to Ramesh to ensure the requisite funding as well as collaboration from state governments, other local bodies and NGOs for installation of the eco-friendly toilets. “Money provided in the budget for defence is for national security,” he said.
Ramesh quickly clarified that while it was necessary to spend on the country’s defence, he only wanted the myriad technologies developed by DRDO to also benefit the society at large. The aim is to make 1,000 panchayats open-defecation free by installing the bio-toilets, originally developed by DRDO for soldiers deployed in high-altitude areas, over the next few years.
“Broadly, in Phase-I, one lakh bio-digestor toilets will be installed in 300 gram panchayats over the next two years at a cost of Rs 150 crore. Phase-II and Phase-III will then follow,” said Ramesh.
Similarly, all existing 50,000 coaches of the Indian Railways — which is the “largest open toilet in the world” with 11 million passengers daily – are likely to be retrofitted with the bio-toilets at a cost of around Rs 500 crore in five years.
Minister of state for statistics and programme implementation Srikant Kumar Jena suggested he would bring about amendments in the MPLADS guidelines so that funds can be released to MPs to provide the bio-toilets in their constituencies.
-via The Times of India.