Jairam Ramesh, Union Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister, on Thursday described the Railways as the world’s largest open toilet as his ministry signed an MoU with the Defence Research and Development Organisation to provide 1,000 bio digester toilets to 300 gram panchayats on a pilot basis in the next two years.
Ramesh’s ministry will also bear half the cost of retrofitting 43,000 train coaches and all new coaches with bio digester toilets. The deadline for the Rs 500 crore project is 2016-17. Bio digester processes human waste and discharges it in the form of methane and water. It was first developed for soldiers stationed at Siachen. It currently costs Rs 15,000 per unit though the DRDO is working to bring costs down to under Rs 10,000.
Ramesh’s pitch for a share from the national security allocation for social development programmes was, however, shot down by Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday. While pledging his ministry’s support to Ramesh’s mission to end open defecation, Antony said, "You should look at other agencies for funds. It is important to bring state government and society on board. Money provided in the Defence budget is for national security."
Ramesh had earlier said that the amount required for installing 1,000 bio-toilets in 300 gram panchayats is equal to that spent for one Rafale fighter jet India is buying from France.
Both the ministers were addressing a programme after signing of the MoU.