Manoj Chaurasia in Patna
Feb. 5. — For all those who had hoped for a “miracle” under the new NDA regime, it is time for retrospection. And, they have solid reasons for this.
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar has emphasised that it inherited “empty” coffers and a devastated economy. The state owed a debt of over Rs 44,000 crore when the NDA government took office. The government, subsequently, sought financial assistance of Rs 40,020 crore from the centre. But crores of rupees have been wasted on “redesigning” the offices as well as bungalows of the ministers, including that of the CM.
If sources in the administration are to be believed, more than Rs 10 lakh have been frittered away on adding an attractive look to the office of the CM. The amount, sources reported, was spent on fitting glazed tiles, painting the wall, arranging furniture and other such related items in the office of the “technocrat” CM to suit his taste. “It looks ultra modern and has the capability to impress prospective investors at first sight,” commented a senior secretary-rank official seeking anonymity.
Likewise, over Rs 5 lakh has been spent on giving a tasteful look to the office of the deputy CM, Mr Sushil Kumar Modi, who incidentally has been more vocal about the state’s existing financial condition and never forgets to add: “Khazana khali hai” (the coffers are empty). Strangely, the CM and his deputy are not the only persons who have had their offices “redesigned.”
Every minister who matters in the NDA — including the human resources development minister and the agriculture minister — have received their share of “privilege” at the cost of the rickety state economy. The same has been done to official bungalows in the name of “minor repairs.” Under the rules, the maximum limits for refurbishing the offices of the cabinet ministers and those of the state-rank ministers are Rs 1.50 lakh and Rs 1.25 respectively. In most of the cases, however, the amount that was spent has exceeded the limit and the rules have been given a go by.
The NDA government is also under pressure to increase the salaries of its ministers and legislators with the latter demanding a hike in their salaries like their colleagues in neighbouring Jharkahand. Curiously, the constitution of the 6th Pay Commission for state government employees is still under consideration in sharp contrast to the salaries of ministers and legislators that have been increased more than a dozen times in the past. At the moment, a minister enjoys a hefty salary of Rs 40,000-45,000 plus other perks per month whereas a legislator gets around Rs 23,000. Both are describing their salaries and perks as “inadequate.”
What is more worrisome is that more than 60 members of the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly have sought an advance of Rs 3 lakh, as applicable to them, for purchasing the latest varieties of cars on the “existing” interest rates. This has faced strong opposition from the Auditor General (AG). The government, official sources said, disburses loans among the members of the Council of Ministers and legislators at the annual interest rate of 2 percent and 5 percent respectively.
The AG, however, has strongly objected to the government’s move to disburse loans among ministers and legislators at a low annual interest rate of 2 and 5 percent and has suggested that the interest rate should be increased to 8-9 percent. Cars like Bolero, Scorpio, Safari, Qualis, Victa and Chevrolet are said to be hot favouries of the “makers of law” and the latest venture of nearly everyone is to be the proud owner of swanky cars.