Ministers of Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government spent a hefty Rs 8.78 crore over the past four years on “chai paani” (refreshments).
The refreshments include tea and snacks like samosa and gulab jamun which were offered to guests by ministers.
In a written reply in the UP Assembly, the chief minister said 72 ministers had claimed an amount of Rs 8.78 crore as “pocket money” between 2012 and 2016 for food and other incidental expenses during official tours within and outside the state.
The list was topped by Minister of State (Independent Charge) Arun Kumar Kori who spent Rs 22,93,800 during his four years as Social Welfare minister, followed by Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan who spent Rs 22,86,620.
The ministers get an allowance of Rs 2,500 per day for tours within UP and Rs 3,000 per day outside the state. But, in practice, most of this amount is spent on feeding personal visitors and supporters.
The ministers can claim this “official” amount without providing vouchers or any other proof of the expenses.
“Ministers are the face of the government. They should be aware of their dignity and try to present an example before the people. But the Samajwadi Party ministers seem to be bent upon looting every rupee that they can lay their hands on,” asked BJP legislature party leader Suresh Khanna.
Khanna said that more than 28 ministers had claimed Rs 12 lakh or more, and a dozen had taken over Rs 20 lakh each in the name of “pocket money”.
“This money is not for our pockets. It is mostly spent on serving tea and refreshments to the people who come to meet us,” says Azam Khan. “Is it a crime to give a cup of tea to a tired person who may have come to me with his problem from far?” he asked.
Labour minister Shahid Manzoor said: “We don’t have any other source of income. So many people come to meet us at home or office. It’s difficult to keep spending from your pocket to serve them tea and refreshments.”