Going overboard to put netas, babus on flight to US
State government officials are going over board and pulling out all stops to put on a flight a mammoth delegation, comprising Karnataka’s political and bureaucratic bosses, for the Akka World Kannada Conference in the United States.
On Wednesday, state government officials stationed here rushed and dashed back and forth between Karnataka Bhavan and the Union Finance Ministry to get the clearances.
Since Thursday is a holiday for Central government officials, the “pressing” work had to be addressed by Wednesday. Several nervous officials were found waiting at North Block (where the Finance Ministry is located) till late on Wednesday night to have their political masters’ papers cleared.
“The approvals must come through tonight at any cost. Otherwise, there is no point since the flight is scheduled for September 3,” a visibly nervous state government official said, indicating in no uncertain terms that directions are to get the documents in order. It is learnt that a few top officials have obtained North Block’s permission over the telephone.
Though Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa was to lead the delegation and his name figured in the list of politicians and bureaucrats for whom the Finance Ministry clearance was required, the plan was dropped since he would be engaged in the campaigning for the two byelections.
Excise Minister M P Renukacharya, two other ministers, Shivanagouda Naik and P M Narendraswamy, and 32 legislators were among the first to leave for New Jersey on Wednesday. It is learnt that the ministers will meet their travel expenses from their own pockets. Their travel intinerary in the US includes some major cities like Washington DC, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
The government sponsored a 40-member team led by Kannada and Culture Department Principal Secretary Jayaram Raje Urs and Kannada and Culture Director Manu Baligar to take part in the convention. The team, which left on Wednesday evening, comprises Harikate, Sugama Sangeeta, Dolu Kunita, Yakshagana and other artistes.
The total expenditure that the state government will incur for the visit of the delegation is Rs 1.5 crore. AKKA, which is organising the convention, will bear all other expenses. Apart from travelling expenses, the Kannada and Culture department has given a Rs 45-lakh grant to AKKA which has received funds from many other departments, sources in Bangalore said. The organisers extended invitation to nearly 500 people from the state to attend the convention.
The scramble for the Centre’s permission for 70 legislators and several bureaucrats has raised eyebrows in political and bureaucratic quarters in Delhi especially because Centre’s guidelines stipulate that prior (political) approval must be obtained from the ministries of External Affairs and Finance involving foreign travel by ministers and officials.
Although the list of names for which permission had to be taken reached Karnataka Bhavan two weeks ago, the approval got delayed because the state government kept adding fresh names. Narendraswamy’s name was added on Tuesday.
The file containing details of the trip, the list of names approved by the MEA on Tuesday and a nod from the Culture Ministry on Wednesday morning. Till late Wednesday, state officials waited at the Cabinet Secretary’s office within the Rashtrapati Bhavan complex to receive his permission.
They will have to take the file to the Finance Ministry’s expenditure department and then receive the final stamp of approval from Pranab Mukherjee. Curiously enough, the letter seeking approval says that one of the purposes for the US visit was to attract investment to Karnataka.