The Maharashtra government wants to buy a plane. And it wants to buy it on emergency basis. That, too, when it does not have pilots for its existing one.
The Supplementary Demands presented to the Assembly by the Finance Department has a shopping list of the state government. On top of the list is the proposal to spend Rs 38 crore on buying a jet aircraft with seating capacity 7 to 11 persons.
Normally, the supplementary demands are moved before the legislature to seek its permission to spend money on proposals which are not part of the budget. The state government cannot spend a single rupee from the state's treasury without the nod of the Legislature.
The expenditure of emergency nature or for unforeseen reasons is met through the Supplementary Demands.
Buying a plane is obviously not something the Maharashtra government needs badly since it already has a ten-seater plane and a helicopter. Further, the State Government does not have a pilot to fly its aircraft.
In about a year, three pilots have quit the government service to join more lucrative private jobs. On several occasions, Captain Yash Kothari, Director General of Civil Aviation, state government, ends up flying the government's helicopter when top officials like Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh want to fly.
State planes are used by Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues, Governor and other officials for official visits.
When asked, Captain Kothari said the government would not have to hunt for a pilot for its new aircraft. "Nowadays, aircraft companies give a trained pilot while delivering the plane," he pointed out. For existing aircraft, the government has issued advertisements seeking pilots, he said.
Ironically, though the Finance Department has sought Rs 38 crore to buy the plane, the government is yet to choose the model and the company. Kothari said a committee has been set up under him to select a suitable model.
Currently, the state government has a Beechcraft Super King 300 airplane and a Dauphin helicopter.
Apart from the purchase of aircraft , loans to sugar co-operatives and loss-making government companies, refurbishment of government offices and setting up a flying club at Nagpur make up for some of the Rs 7,037 crore of Supplementary Demands presented before the State Legislature on Tuesday for an approval.
Very few of the demands are actually emergency or unexpected in nature. They are inserted at the behest of ministers.
Little wonder, Finance Minister Jayant Patil is not happy with his colleagues.
"I would like all the departments to work out their budgetary requirements seriously in advance of the budget. It's difficult to arrange for these expenditures,"'said an irked Patil.
For the finance department the worry is to manage a plan size that is nearly twice the original - from Rs 14,000 crore to over Rs 24,000 crore.