The Centre providing Rs. 800 crore additional funds to organise the Kumbh Mela in January-February 2013 at Allahabad was a farce.
In fact, funds meant to tackle backwardness, irrigation and urban development, was taken from Uttar Pradesh government’s kitty and shown as central government’s grant for the Mela.
All this happened because the finance ministry refused to agree with the Planning Commission’s decision to give UP special central financial assistance of Rs. 800 crore for organising Kumbh Mela, the biggest religious congregation of Hindus.
The decision was to keep Samajwadi Party-led UP government in good humour after it had assured of unconditional outside support to the UPA government. But, documents with HT shows the plan panel did not realise that the finance ministry was not willing to play ball.
The finance ministry in October 2012 told the panel that the proposed central assistance of Rs. 800 crore to Uttar Pradesh for organising the Mela cannot be met.
Panel’s deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia wrote to finance minister P Chidrambaram last November suggesting that the commission will identify savings of Rs. 800 crore in UP’s annual plan allocation for 2012-13.
The panel decided to deduct Rs. 400 crore from Accelerated Irrigation Programme, Rs. 200 crore each from Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and BRGF to pay for the Mela.
The logic given by the panel for deductions was that expenditure in these schemes in the first seven months of financial year 2012-13 was very low.
While Ahluwalia and UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav claim credit for organizing the successful Mela, the reality was that the Centre did not give anything extra for the event.