Friday, January 24, 2014

Anti-Modi campaigner alleges funds meant for cultural ties with NRIs being misused to "propagate" Gujarat

By Our Representative
A senior human rights campaigner has alleged that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is misusing Gujarat government’s NRI funds to “export” ministers, police officers, IAS bureaucrats and senior government functionaries to other Indian states in order to “propagate” Gujarat’s progress. Well-known anti-Modi crusader Shabman Hashmi, in association with several Gujarat-based activists Mahesh Pandya, Hemant Shah, Manan Trivedi and Gautam Thakker, said this while releasing documents which state that the government's NRI funds, meant to establish cultural ties with non-resident Gujaratis living abroad, are being illegitimately used for Modi poll propaganda.
Calling this “shocking”, Hashmi read out government documents which said funds for Modi’s “programme” in other states -- including for his ambitious Statue of Unity project for building world’s tallest building in the memory of Sardar -- should be “drawn and debited from Demand No 33 Account Head 2052-Secretariat General Services, 090-Secretariat (5) Non-Resident Indian Department –Grant-in-aid allocated under Account Head 3135- Grant in aid to others for organizing programme.”
“According to information available with us 172 Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of state, MPs, MLA, mayors, deputy speakers, chief whip, deputy whip, and panchayat presidents have been deputed to travel across the country. Apart from these 116 government officers including IGs, collectors, chief conservators of forest, deputy secretaries, information officers, principal secretaries, chief general managers, police superintendents, DIGs, DDOs, DCP and many other officers have also been deputed by the government to propagate Gujarat progress story in various states”, Hashmi said.
The documents with her, she said, “has made special exemption for officers who are not entitled to travel by air to travel by flights”. Thus, the general administration department’s (GAD’s) government resolutions (GRs) issued on November 15, 2013, one of which is called “No BNG/102013421(2)-NRI”, says, “Permission is hereby granted for air travel in economy class in case of necessity as special case, by relaxing Gujarat Civil Service (Traveling Allowance) Rules, 2002.”
The purpose, a GR said, is to allow “air travel to the office bearers who are part of the delegation and not otherwise entitled for air travel as also in case of members of teams of administrative officers and if so required, by officers/employees of Non-Resident Gujarat Pratisthan for visiting other States for dissemination of information on ‘Statue of Unity’ project under ‘Sadaa Kaal Gujarat’ programme.”
The GR further states: “For the purpose of meeting expenditure to be incurred on accommodation, lunch or dinner, local transportation and other contingency expenditure in relation to the program would be required during visit of high level delegation and officers/employees of administrative team to respective State, permission is hereby granted to place at disposal of Liaison Officer of respective team an amount of Rs.5.00 lakhs (Rupees five lakhs only) as advance.”
Hashmi said, release of functions form the state’s NRI funds fun counter to the functions of the NRI department, as the Gujarat government website http://www.nri.gujarat.gov.in/objective-nri-fond.htm says the “objectives of the NRI division” is to “establish effective communication with NRIs of Gujarati origin in various parts of the world, prepare and maintain a comprehensive database about NRIs of Gujarati origin” and to “study from time to time social and cultural issues of NRIs of Gujarati origin and take steps to formulate schemes for meeting their requirements.”
Other functions include:
· To take effective steps to survey and assess the technical and professional skills of NRIs and to dovetail the same in the developmental efforts of the State.
· To create a database on NRGs (Non Resident Gujaratis), highlighting the professional areas of interest.
· To enable Government of Gujarat and its agencies to communicate with NRGs with relevant interest.
· To facilitate Government of Gujarat to initiate steps to address specific needs of NRGs in different fields.
· To tap the technological, managerial and financial resources of the NRI so as to upgrade the technical and professional skills and the human resources of the State, for the economic and industrial development of the State.
· To channelize the savings and surplus financial resources of the NRI in to the developmental efforts of the State for mutual benefits.
· To monitor the general welfare of the NRI and in times of crisis identify specific problems of Gujarati NRI groups and take up the same with and through Government of India.

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