How much can one travel within Badal village? Certainly not 34,310 km. But this is exactly how a vehicle in Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s entourage moved from March to May this year, clocking over 11,000 km a month, 366 km a day.
Barring a few trips to Delhi and Amritsar, the vehicle, an Innova, drew 30-50 litre petrol from a pump in Badal village daily, sometimes even twice a day. The petrol used by the vehicle during this period cost almost Rs 1.9 lakh.
Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal may be using the government’s chopper to travel across the state but their official cars seem to be on their own trip.
Information gathered under the RTI Act suggests that even when the leaders are not in Chandigarh, their vehicles are moving impractical distances in the state.
The chief minister has 37 cars in his entourage registered with the transport department that are consuming petrol costing almost Rs 40 lakh a month.
The billing of the chief minister’s vehicles, however, varies widely. While there are some vehicles which are only moving 7,000-8,000 km a month, there are others covering the improbable distance of almost 19,000 km a month.
Another vehicle owned by Badal used petrol worth Rs 1 lakh, travelling 12,000 km in just 22 days of May 2013. On an average, each of his cars is moving 10,000 km a month.
Onus on drivers
“Since the chief minister uses his vehicle sparingly, the possibility of the staff misusing these or forging petrol bills is high.
The cars stationed in Chandigarh do not run more than 100 km a day,” pointed out an officer working in the chief minister’s office (CMO).
The process of filling in the bill sheets, along with proof of having got the petrol filled, is generally left to the driver, the official added.
The story seems to be the same for the bills submitted by those running the cars attached with the deputy chief minister.
He has 16 cars in his entourage registered with the transport department.
These do not include the high-security car he travels in and yet, the petrol bills are as high as Rs 1 lakh per month.
In July, one of his cars filled over 40 litre petrol daily from Mohali, spending over Rs 76,000. In April this year, one of his cars travelled 15,500 km for which the government paid Rs 1.44 lakh.
The possibility that the bills deposited with the transport department for reimbursement are forged can also be gathered from two bills submitted for two cars being used for the chief minister’s security.
The two bills are identical, showing that the cars started and stopped at the same petrol pumps in July this year. They tanked up the same amount of petrol and finally ended up travelling the same distance: 10,642 km each.
One of the deputy chief minister’s other car (PB65H9049) consumed petrol worth Rs 9 lakh from March to July this year. Another vehicle (PB 65 H 9074) used Rs 7.5 lakh worth petrol in the same period.