Call it irony or a brazen display of disregard for policy, a 23-member parliamentary panel is staying and discussing agriculture at an expensive five-star hotel in Chandigarh even as the union government makes tall claims of austerity to tackle the global economic crisis. The cost of the whole exercise comes to Rs 5 lakh per day, the amount duly billed to the public.
Comprising 23 MPs, the standing committee on agriculture led by CPM MP Basudeb Acharia is to examine the region's farming sector from June 15 to 20.
The members -- some checked into the hotel two days in advance and some with wives and other companions in tow -- are blatantly violating a ban on such meeting at five-star hotels, imposed by the department of expenditure of the union finance ministry on May 31.
The MPs on Friday held a session with Haryana government officials at the hotel and are scheduled to visit Shimla, Bathinda and Karnal now.
Hotel sources said the MPs are staying in deluxe rooms, each of which costs about Rs 15,000 a day, including taxes. Meetings with Haryana's agriculture and horticulture officials were followed by lunch at the conference hall of the hotel, which charges Rs 1,000-1,500 per person for a buffet lunch.
Sources said that the visit of the MPs was being sponsored by National Seeds Corporation Limited. When asked about the luxury being doled out to the parliamentary panel, DR Sarin, general manager of the corporation, who was coordinating the stay at the five-star hotel, said the MPs have been put up in ordinary rooms.
Obviously, the five-star private hotel is certainly not the only option in Chandigarh, but even if the parliamentary panel was looking for safe and comfortable stay, there is the designated, government-run UT Guest House, among other such options.
A deluxe room at the UT Guest House costs Rs 1,500 per day. After the discussion on Friday, the panel left for Shimla as part of their 'study tour'. To be back on Sunday, they are scheduled to return to the hotel before leaving for Bathinda.
As farmers succumb to crushing debt, such luxuries seem ironic -- even insensitive -- for MPs who are actually tasked with discussing and reviving the agriculture sector. The instances of suicides by farmers and agriculture labourers across the country have seen a significant spike in the past decade.
Meanwhile, an official press release by the Haryana government said the members of the committee reviewed the agricultural policies of the state threadbare and were all praise for the "farmer-friendly" ecisions.