Blame it on a colonial hangover or the assumed superiority of bureaucrats in the corridors of power, these offices, The Indian Express has found, have rules in place that reserve some toilets exclusively for officers of a specified rank and above.
The affirmative action apparently aims to allow senior officers to ease themselves in cleaner facilities and is in practise in no less than the Prime Ministers Office, the Home Ministry, Environment Ministry, the Department of Personnel and Training and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, to name a few.
The PMO, in fact, issued a circular as recently as August 23, 2013 to remind those working there about where they could go or not go.
It has been observed that staff not entitled to use these toilets are using the same, leaving the premises dirty, the circular said referring to toilets reserved for senior officers.
To avoid any embarrassing situation, all staff members are expected to refrain from using toilets that are exclusively marked For Officers Only, failing which administration will be constrained to take suitable action against staff defaulting on this count.
The circular was issued by Under Secretary R Mythily and accessed by The Indian Express through the RTI Act. The PMO reply also said that there are 13 toilets in the complex of which two are reserved for senior officers.
A similar circular had been issued on March 10, 2010 but had obviously not succeeded in curbing the tendency in the PMO to break barriers when it came to matters of the bladder.
The undersigned is constrained to issue this order primarily because it is observed that staff not entitled to use this toilet is using the same, leaving the premises dirty, the March 2010 circular issued by Under Secretary K Sail Kumar had said.
The justification for such reservation, officials said, was to ensure that toilets are neat and clean all the time. They also said that the PMO frequently has international visitors and it is important that they can use rest rooms that are clean.
Responding to queries from The Indian Express under the RTI Act, the Environment Ministry said that there are 24 toilets at its headquarters in Paryavaran Bhawan of which three are reserved for officers/senior officers. But it added that copy of the instruction issued for reserving the toilets exclusively for officers/senior officers is not available.
DoPT, which is responsible for HR issues in the Central government, said it had not issued any circular on whether the use of toilets in offices was determined by rank.
Responding to queries under the RTI Act, the Home Ministry first asked The Indian Express to identify the building about which information was being sought. It is yet to revert after the NDCC building and North Block were specified.
But sources said that in North Block, where the Home Ministry and the DoPT have their offices, an extension section of the common toilets for men and women on the first floor has been reserved exclusively for officers of the rank of director and above.
Although there are no signs specifying the segregation, sources said when officers of director rank or above join, they are given a key to the reserved facilities. The sources also said that in one case, a joint secretary rank officer had recently renovated and converted a common ladies toilet in the NDCC building into a toilet for men for his exclusive use and keeps it locked at other times.
At the DGCAs office, The Indian Express found a toilet near the room of the DGCA locked, with a sign above it saying Restricted Entry. Those working in the office said it is used exclusively by the DGCA.