Despite Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s instructions in December 2009 to reduce spending on splendour, the Jammu and Kashmir government spent Rs 5.79 crore on official and private residences of its 23 ministers and 29 senior bureaucrats in 2009-10.
While there was an officially announced austerity drive during the year, the estates department spent Rs 5.04 crore on Abdullah and his 22 ministers, while Rs 74.99 lakh was splurged on the bureaucrats.
In response to an application filed by a television news channel under the RTI Act, the state government revealed that Rs 6 crore was spent on repairing ministerial bungalows last year, including Rs 48.7 lakh on Abdullah’s private office in Srinagar.
But secretary in the estates department Khursheed Ganie said the CM’s private office houses an additional office with an additional secretary and an official on special duty. “It’s a tradition in Kashmir that the CM receives hundreds of people everyday.”
But, the state claimed to be cash- strapped when it came to implement the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations.
In December 2009, the government fixed a ceiling on the expenditures on repair, renovation and upgradation of ministers and bureaucrats’ houses, furniture and furnishings. But the ceiling was exceeded many times over.
Ganie said the expenditure was incurred in 2008-09, while the ceiling was announced in December 2009. “Only 18 lakh will be spent during the rest of the tenure of the government.”
He said the renovations were needed in the first year, as new ministers took over official residences. “Necessary repairs are done every time a new government comes to power ...”
The trend, however, is not new. Between 2004 and 2007, the PDP-Congress coalition spent Rs 24 crore on splendour. While Congress CM Ghulam Nabi Azad spent Rs 11 crore on his official residence, his predecessor Mufti Mohamamd Sayeed spent Rs 5 crore.