Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Activists "unearth" misuse of public funds, flouting of rules during Modi's sadbhavna festival in 2011-12

By Our Representative
Gujarat-based activists have said that there was a “fraudulent use of public money” between September 2011 and February 2012, when Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s 34 sadbhavna programmes, claimed to create a harmonious inter-community relations in Gujarat, took place. Alleging that the programmes, in which Modi would observe day-long fast for symbolic “purification”, reflected Modi’s ”arbitrary nature of functioning and total disregard for written provisions”, the activists said, “Evidence on record shows huge funds were diverted from government departments for personal gain and projection of Modi keeping the next year’s state elections in mind.”
Saying that the first three sadbhavna programmes, starting the one at Ahmedabad on September 17, 2011, were held “illegally”, without any approvals or following government rules and regulations, the activists, in a statement issued in Ahmedabad, said, “Neither the CM nor his government had any planning for them; they had no clue even one month after the programme of what it was going to cost.” The activists alleged, Modi “diverted” funds meant for Central schemes by sighting a “general circular which suggested promotion of communal harmony programmes in states.”
Saying that the state assembly, the Gujarat governor and people in general were “deliberately misled about the actual expenditure”, the activists pointed towards how “legal procedures and authorization” were flouted. They added, “As per Constitutional Article 266-267-283(2) and provision for contingency fund and Gujarat Financial Rules 1971, such expenses are misappropriation of public money. The accounts have not been settled till date.”
They said, Modi announced “huge projects for development of the host districts during sadbhavna programmes. Many of the projects were already part of the local bodies’ budgets. Other projects like automation of solid waste management, re-carpeting of roads, afforestation, fire brigade expansion, housing schemes for urban poor, funds mainly came from the Centre’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).”
Further, “the announcements like the beautification of Aji and Nyari dams on public-private partnership model were also ongoing projects. In Porbandar, Modi announced a Rs 281crore package for three main projects – a new drinking water supply network, an underground sewage pipeline and a housing scheme for the poor. All three projects were going on for a while and were part of the JNNURM.”
The activists said, while sadbhavna programme began on September 17, 2011, Modi’s birthday, only 25 days later, on October 12, 2011, a meeting was held in the General Administrative Department (GAD) in which Gujarat chief secretary and other officers were present. The estimated expenditure of the sadbhavna fast was calculated as roads and buildings Rs 30 lakh, the district collectors Rs 8 lakh, state transport Rs 20 lakh, and information and publicity Rs12 lakh. Ever since, there were various estimates floating around in the corridors of power of the amount spent on sadbhavna.
On November 5, 2011, wide letter No CNF/1111/433/k, a sum of Rs 3 crore was set aside from the contingency fund for sadbhavna. “The sanctioned money should have been regularized in the budget session in March 2012 when the 2012-13 budget was presented. There was no mention in the budget of this expenditure”, the activists who released the statement – Prof Hemant Shah, senior columnist Prakash Shah, Mahesh Pandya of Gujarat Social Watch and Gautam Thakkar of the People's Union for Civil Liberties – said.
On February 24, 2012, only “a supplementary statement was made in the assembly. In this it was referred to as ‘new service’. All MLAs should have been given details of new service three days prior to placing it in the assembly, and the state assembly should approve the supplementary demand of ‘new service’. No such procedure was followed.”
Interestingly, while the budget for 2013-14 found no mention of sadbhavna, the activists said, “The supplementary statement for 2012-13 presented on February 20, 2013 suddenly gave an additional estimated expenditure of Rs 15.48 crore”.
There have been other discrepancies as well. “On February 24, 2012 an MLA asked a question in the assembly regarding funds given to each district for sadbhavna, and the answer was Rs 5 lakh each to Jamnagar, Navsari, Patan, Tapi, Narmada, Kutch, Bhavnagar and Vadodara districts, and Rs 4 lakh to Porbandar”, the activists, said, adding, “A year later, the GAD passed a giving funds to district collectors – Jamnagar Rs 20 lakh, Navsari Rs 12 lakh, Tapi Rs 15 lakh, Narmada Rs 20 lakh, Vadodara Rs 20 lakh, Porbandar Rs 20 lakh, Dangs Rs 20 lakh”!
Then, a letter from the Gujarat governor’s secretary on March 22, 2012 stated the spent amount from various departments was Rs 1.57 crore. “However, data unearthed on the basis of original documents suggest that the total expenditure was Rs 12.83 crore”, the statement said. Of this, the expenditure on bringing people to attend sadbhavna in state buses alone was Rs 11.14 crore.
“The amount was spent on buses which brought people to sadbhavna, tents, halls, light, phone, skull caps, CCTV, printing, advertising, and so on. Suggesting that this is just tip of the iceberg, the activists said, “We do not have any documents regarding other expenditure regarding food and a lot of other things -- gifts, the CM’s travel by helicopters etc”, it concluded.

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