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Cut defence expenditure to fund bio-toilets: Jairam Ramesh

Press Trust of India
Oct 22, 2012 at 10:04am IST

New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday outrightly rejected Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh's pitch for a share from the national security allocation for social development programmes.

"Money provided in the budget for the Defence is for national security," Antony said promising at the same time all necessary support to Rural Development Ministry by providing it technology from his ministry.

Ramesh had earlier said that the total amount of money required for installing 100,000 bio-toilets is equal to what is spent for one Rafale fighter jet India is buying from France.

Cut defence expenditure to fund bio-toilets: Ramesh

Ramesh said the money required for installing 100,000 bio-toilets is equal to that spent for buying one Rafale fighter from France.

Both the ministers were addressing a programme after signing of an MoU between Defence Research and Development Organisation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for Bio-Digester-based eco-friendly toilets developed by DRDO.

"I assure Jairam Ramesh that we will provide all necessary support from the Ministry of Defence....by providing you technology," he said asking the Rural Development Minister to seek support from other areas for developmental work.

"Money provided in the budget for the Defence is for national security. (For) all other areas, you can seek support from other agencies including state government, local bodies NGOs and also people who are having social commitment," he said.

Making a strong pitch for the synergy of defence investment and civilian benefit, Ramesh said "I feel in our country, it is very important to maximise the developmental impacts of the defence expenditure. Defence expenditure in India today is Rs 1,93000 crores.

"So, the amount of money that we are spending on defence which is absolutely essential for external security have to be looked at from the point of view of maximising the developmental impact", he said.

Addressing the function, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation Srikant Kumar Jena said he is going to bring about amendments in MPLADS guidelines so that funds can be released by MPs for providing eco-friendly bio-digester toilets in their respective constituencies.

He said that similarly guidelines for amendments to MLALAD scheme may also be made to incorporate release of funds by MLAs for bio-digester technology-based toilets.

Ramesh said one lakh bio-toilets will be installed in about 300 backward gram pachayats of the country in the next two years to make them fred from open defecation.

The project will entail a cost of Rs 150 crore in the first phase, he said.

Noting that there are three dimensions to the sanitation challenge, Ramesh said the first challenge is to achieve Nirmal Gram status to total 2,40000 Gram Panchayats in 10 years.

"...we are the world's capital of open defecation. 60 per cent of all open defecation in the world are in India. This is a matter of great shame, anguish, sorrow and actually anger," he said.

"How can a country that is economically on the high growth path, aspirationally also in a different trajectory and still we are home to 60 per cent of open defecation," the Minister said.

"The second dimension of the sanitation is the Indian Railways which is really the largest open toilet in the world. 11 million passengers travel every day," he said.

The third big challenge is tackle the challenge of manual scavenging which is still very widely prevalent. "We have to tackle these challenges through multiple ways," he said.

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