In Jairam Ramesh’s rural development ministry, there are no free lunches. Literally.
The Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) has its office at the India Habitat Centre (IHC) — a premium address of the Capital — and its officials were getting food coupons to use at the IHC's upscale restaurants and even elsewhere.
On Friday, at a review meeting of the CAPART, the nodal agency for coordination between the NGOs and the centre for rural development, rural development minister Ramesh cancelled any further freebies on food.
Ramesh also clamped down on hiring private cars for CAPART officials after stumbling upon previous bills amounting to a few lakh rupees that clearly showed gross misuse of funds.
While CAPART is an autonomous body registered under the Societies Registration Act, it gets its funds from the ministry and works under its aegis. "We have to clean it up. There are a lot of complaints over the functioning of CAPART. We want to make it a professional organisation catering to the needs of rural India," Ramesh told HT.
In the restructuring plan, Ramesh also plans to shut down the 9 regional offices of the organization located in Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow, Patna, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bhubneshwar. Guwahati and Dharwad.
Around 150 officials work in the head office while another 50 officials are posted in these regional centres.
To send the politically correct message that he is against frivolous expenses, Ramesh did not bring out a calendar of the ministry. "These are sheer wastage of money. These have to be stopped," Ramesh told HT.