THERE’S NO such thing as a free lunch. And the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) is not an exception. Post-Diwali, the civic body has launched an aggressive dinner (and lunch) diplomacy campaign to curry favour with those who find its policies hard to digest. The Corporation has laid three lavish spreads, for scribes, senior officials and party workers at a cost of nearly Rs 1 lakh since last one week.
Sources in the IMC say that there is no budgetary provision for arranging such parties. Is the Corporation then making culinary merry with the taxpayers’ money? A case of ‘maal-e-ghair, dil-e-beraham’ (It is easy to be extravagant with someone else’s money).
Mayor Uma Shashi Sharma hosted a dinner for around 80 IMC officers at her official residence. The diners were given a choice of lentils, three vegetable dishes and tandoori roti, naan and paratha, and two dessert options - rosogulla and moong ka halwa.
The lady then treated over 100 scribes to a sumptuous luncheon at the same venue on Monday and followed it up by arranging another dinner party in the guise of a ‘Dipawali Milan Samaroh’ for about 350 party workers, including former corporators and mayors at the RNT Auditorium in the City on Tuesday.
The culinary largesse has baffled Corporation observers who are surprised in the manner the cash-strapped Corporation could afford to arrange these lavish meals that would cost Rs 70,000.
“Though it didn’t have to pay for the venue, the meals must have nevertheless cost a hefty sum. Catering for the journalists’ lunch was undertaken by Apsara Hotel while the dinner for officers was prepared at the Mayor’s bungalow itself by locally hired cooks,” pointed out a senior BJP corporator.
“Even assuming an expense of Rs 100 per head (a figure corroborated by the Apsara Hotel management), the cost of hosting the two meals alone works out to be over Rs 18,000,” he pointed out.
“Considering that many dignitaries, including former mayors have been invited, the expenses for Tuesday’s dinner are likely to be much higher. In all, the expense for the three meals are likely to hover around Rs 1 lakh.’’
“Where,” he demanded, “will the IMC get this money and from under which heads will these expenses be deducted?” The IMC administration shied away from answering the queries. “It is being financed by the party (BJP) district unit,” remarks Secretary J C Galar when asked about Tuesday’s dinner.
He, however, professes ignorance about the exact cost of the ‘Diwali Milan Samaroh’ by saying that Public Relations Officer Solapurkar is handling the arrangements.
The PRO, when asked, claims that Galar is handling the financial aspects. Both officials are cagey about revealing the expense incurred on the two previous parties. “It’s best that you ask the Mayor,” says Galar.
“The Mayor, like the CM, is authorised to arrange parties on festive occasions like Diwali,” Uma Shashi Sharma said when queried about the spate of dinners.
She, however, declined to comment on the exact sum allocated for the purpose. Defending her reason for covering over 500 people in three lavish meals, the Mayor said, “It’s basically one meal that has been broken down into three instalments for the sake of logistical convenience.’’