Govt splurges tax-payers' money on Cabinet meetings

Rs 15 cr was spent for conducting two such exercises in Gulbarga

From furnishing the meeting hall to shifting the administrative machinery, the government spends the tax-payers’ money just to enable the Cabinet comprising the chief minister and his colleagues to take a couple of dozen policy decisions.

Yeddyurappa recently announced that he would hold the Cabinet meetings at the taluk level in the coming days. He said it would enable his colleagues and himself to know the pulse of people and understand local issues, besides providing effective administration. He has, however, not divulged the names of the taluks where the meetings would be held.

The Yeddyurappa Cabinet had held its meeting thrice outside the State secretariat, the Vidhana Soudha, in the last three years. While two meetings were held in Gulbarga district headquarters — September 2008 and October 2009 — the Cabinet had also met in Belgaum in 2009 on the sidelines of the winter session of the State Legislature.

The government had officially released Rs one crore to each of these meetings held in Gulbarga. In addition, various government departments spend money for attending the meeting. If sources are to be believed, not less than Rs 15 crore had been spent for conducting two Cabinet meetings in Gulbarga. The money is mainly spent towards transportation, boarding, lodging, sprucing up the city to welcome the netas, and celebrations.

For a Cabinet meeting to be held outside the Secretariat, all Cabinet ministers will have to move with their entourage of staff — from personal secretary to personal assistants. At least 30 people from the Chief Minister’s office alone will be involved in making the arrangements, or just to be at the venue.

A majority of the ministers travel by their official car, though the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) reserves first class AC sleeper berths in trains. The ministers are also entitled to travel free in all State-owned transport corporation buses.
The government, sources said, had issued a strict direction to all ministers not to use the official cars to attend the Gulbarga Cabinet meeting in 2009, but none of them obeyed the order.

Besides, about 10 persons from each of the 29 departments, including Secretary, Directors/Commissioners and their assistants, will be involved. Most of them will move to the place where the meeting is scheduled to be held a day in advance. Many top officials travel using official cars, sources said.

In Gulbarga, the government had spent huge money on furnishing the hall where the Cabinet was to meet. The venue was decorated and a colourful procession depicting the rich cultural history of the State was taken out as a mark of celebration.

In Belgaum, a Suvarna Soudha is being built by spending not less than Rs 400 crore. This building will be the venue for just 10 to 12 days of the winter sessions of the legislature. The government has not yet announced how it would be utilising the building through the year.

‘Psychological satisfaction’

Law Minister Suresh Kumar says ‘’taking governance to the common man’’ concept is the philosophy behind holding Cabinet meetings outside the State capital.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held a Cabinet meeting in a tent near a river in a village. Such exercise gives people psychological satisfaction, he says.

The minister says e-governance and video conferences are important for officers. But when it comes to ministers, people expect them to be accessible. “When we conduct a Cabinet meeting in a district headquarters or a taluk, the entire Cabinet team will be available for the people to interact with. Definitely, it has a psychological advantage,” he says.

 What is Cabinet meeting

Important decisions on key administrative matters are taken at the Cabinet meeting. The heads of departments prepare the Cabinet agendas in consultation with the ministers. The Cabinet discusses these agendas with the members sharing their views and takes a decision in a closed-door meeting. Then the government issues an official order on the decision taken.

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