The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government has drawn flak over a sanction of Rs.8 lakh from Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for a dance troupe’s visit to Thailand. What’s distressing is that it comes at a time when the state is facing the severe brunt of drought.
This was revealed by an RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali. It was found that Fadnavis had sanctioned the sum that was transferred to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for the dance contest.
Galgali claimed it “is clear violation of rules governing the CM Relief Fund at a time when the state is facing the drought, which has fueled a spate of suicides amongst farmers in the state”.
The CM’s office issued a statement saying:
“It wasn’t a commercial event but was performing arts competition. The CM’s Relief Fund has separate accounts for drought relief, Jalyukt Shivar and others. The fund used here is neither from drought relief nor Jalyukt Shivar. Government employees are not entitled for any other private aid for cultural activities and this is the only way they can get the aid. This aid is as per the norms followed since many years.”
While the Opposition criticised the government’s ‘priorities’ at a time when the state is reeling under drought, the authorities justified their action saying the money was used for activities that fall under its ambit of the fund.
Maharashtra Congress General Secretary Sanjay Dutt, said:
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“The government’s priorities are flawed. It attaches more importance to funds for dance than funds for drought.”
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told PTI:
“The state government has no funds to help cancer and heart patients, was very prompt in giving money for the dance troupe’s visit to Thailand. The government should recover the money and if it fails to do so, Fadnavis should pay from his pocket.”
Amid mounting criticism of the move, an official of the CMO, denied any wrongdoing in the disbursing of the fund.
The official said, “Registered in 1967 with the charity commissioner, the CM’s relief fund can be used for funding cultural activities.
The Gymkhana had sought aid to send its 15-member team of government employees to enable them to participate in a dance competition in Bangkok from December 26-30.
The dance troupe is slated to participate in the competition being held at Akshara theatre in Bangkok, which is organised by private bodies like Akhil Bhartiya Sanskrutik Sangh and the Global Council of Art and Culture comprising 15 artists for which Rs 50,000 each has been sanctioned totaling Rs 7,50,000.
The purpose of the CM Relief Fund is to provide immediate help to those affected by disaster within the Maharashtra state or anywhere in the country. The victims or survivors of disasters such as floods, drought, accidents due to fire or any other major natural calamities are provided immediate assistance from the CM Relief Fund, Galgali said.