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Cash-strapped Himachal government plans to replace 6 luxury cars with SUVs for ministers

The Jairam Thakur government, which had pledged to observe austerity after inheriting a debt of Rs 46,000-cr nine months ago, will start by phasing out six of the 12 Camry cars being used by its ministers and replace them with the Toyaota Fortuners.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2018 09:39 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
himachal govt,jairam thakur govt,himachal pradesh ministers
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jairam Thakur at an event. Six ministers in his cabinet have asked forSUVs as they are better suited for hill roads than luxury cars that are being used at present. (Sanjeev Sharma / HT File )

Despite a debt of Rs 49,000 crore, the Himachal Pradesh government plans to buy six sport utility vehicles (SUV) worth Rs 34 lakh each for its ministers and upgrade the governor’s Mercedes Benz car to Rs 76-lakh executive class model.

The Jairam Thakur government, which had pledged to observe austerity after inheriting a debt of Rs 46,000-cr nine months ago, will start by phasing out six of the 12 Camry cars being used by its ministers and replace them with the Toyaota Fortuners.

An official of the general administration department (GAD), requesting anonymity, said the 12 Camry cars worth Rs 23 lakh each, bought for ministers during the previous Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh, are now worn out. “Six ministers have written to the GAD demanding SUVs as they are better suited for hill roads than luxury cars,” the official said.

The ministers said the Camry cars had exceeded the mileage of 2 lakh kilometres fixed by the government and were not fit for kutcha stretches. On official trips, they said, they had to visit villages connected with kutcha (unpaved) stretches and Camry cars had low ground clearance.

The six ministers who wrote to the government are tribal affairs minister Ram Lal Markanda, social justice minister Dr Rajiv Saizal, education minister Suresh Bhardwaj, urban development minister Sarveen Chawdhary, rural development minister Virender Kanwar and health minister Vipin Singh Parmar.

“The terrain in my constituency is tough and a luxury car is unfit for it. I have asked the state government to replace it with a Fortuner,” says Markanda, who represents Lahaul and Spiti.

The decision to replace the cars was taken when Saizal’s car broke down while he was touring Kasauli recently, another government official said.

Besides CM Jairam Thakur, who rides a Fortuner, the government provided SUVs to transport minister Govind Singh Thakur, power minister Anil Sharma and food minister Kishan Kapoor last month. Irrigation and public health minister Mahender Singh and industries minister Vikram Singh Thakur use the Fortuners the government inherited from the Virbhadra Singh regime.

The Congress government had a fleet of 12 Camry cars, two SUVs for ministers and two Toyota Fortuners for Virbhadra’s cavalcade.

Arun Sharma, the principal secretary to governor Acharya Devvrat, says the Mercedes, bought in 2013, has run its stipulated 2 lakh km and needs to be replaced. It is proposed to replace it with the executive class variant that costs Rs 76 lakh.

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the GAD had placed the matter before the state cabinet recently, however it was not taken up for discussion in the meet held last week . Now, the matter is expected to be brought up for discussion again in the next cabinet meet.

First Published: Sep 12, 2018 09:38 IST