From curbs on gold imports to steps to conserve fuel, the government wants people to tighten their belts. But it isn’t tightening its own.
An HT analysis has found that taxpayers’ money has been liberally splurged on making the homes of ministers swankier than they already were.
Maintaining the rent-free bungalows of 77 central ministers cost the public exchequer Rs. 100 crore over the last three years at a time when an average middle-class Delhi family was finding it difficult to buy a home as rising prices put a dent in its savings.
The amount, by the way, is four times of what was spent on the upkeep of bungalows occupied by other “dignitaries”.
In these trying times, the government had officially maintained that it will trim its expenditure by 10%. But budget documents show that the government’s travel bill has tripled in the last 11 years to Rs. 3,500 crore in 2011-12 — enough to run the meal scheme for India’s schoolchildren for six months.
Rules were changed to meet the austerity goal, but those who felt the pinch got them changed back. A luncheon meeting convened by the then principal secretary to the PM, TKA Nair, in August 2009 was enough for senior babus to get back free tickets for their companions.
UPA ministers, forced to fly economy in 2008 at the time of the global economic slowdown, are back in the business class. In 2011-12, the government paid Rs. 678 crore on the air fares of 40 globetrotting ministers — 12 times more than the previous year’s sum.