Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister Thomas Isaac continue to cry foul over the state’s precarious financial position. At a time when the state government is planning measures to cut expenditures, major cases of corruption has come out in Vijayan’s flagship Loka Kerala Sabha. A whopping Rs 60 lakh for food and another Rs 23 lakh were splurged on accommodation during the summit with food being arranged for almost twice the number of delegates. The details of the unwarranted splurge has put the communist government in the dock with nowhere to hide.
The Loka Kerala Sabha is Vijayan’s attempt to emulate the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat Summit. The Loka Kerala Sabha is meant for the socio-political and economic integration of state’s diaspora but has come under criticism for its extravagant expenditure. The first edition of the summit was launched by Vijayan in 2018 and the Vijayan government failed to do anything on what was promised during the first edition of the summit. The Congress-led opposition boycotted the second edition of the summit which was held earlier this year where the famished communists opened the state’s purse strings and splurged at the expense of taxpayers.
The documentary evidence has pointed out gross irregularities and overspending for food and accommodation provided to the delegates. Of the 351 delegates, 69 from the United Democratic Front kept away, hence taking the total number of delegates to a paltry 282. However, funds were allocated to serve lunch and dinner to 700 and 600 people, respectively.
As per the details that have come out, an empowered committee meeting on December 20 decided to entrust an event management company with finalising the food requirement. However, the event company conveyed its inability to supply the food. Following which, due to shortage of time, Raviz Kovalam was entrusted with the task of serving food for delegates from January 1- 3. The committee found that the number of people was higher than what the food committee had calculated. When the food committee was asked to negotiate and finalise a deal, the total funds came out to be Rs 59.82 lakh. This included dinner for 250 (at Rs 1,700 plus tax per person) on the first day, breakfast for 400 (Rs 550 plus tax), lunch for 700 (Rs 1,900 plus tax), dinner for 600 (Rs 1,700 plus tax), refreshment for 700 (Rs 250 plus tax) on the second day, breakfast for 400, lunch for 700 and refreshment for 700 on the third day.
The extent of corruption and extravaganza can be gauged from the fact that though the dates of the summit were from January 1 to 3, the dates were relaxed from December 31 to January 4 and hence, apart from the Guest House and Rest House, seven additional hotels were also booked. These hotels booked for the delegates were Mascot Hotel (Rs 3.88 lakh for 50 rooms), Apollo Dimora (Rs 5.49 lakh for 75 rooms), Hilton Garden Inn (Rs 7.60 lakh for 60 rooms), Hycinth (Rs 2.31 lakh for 30 rooms), SP Grand Days (Rs 4,58,08 for 15 rooms), Central Residency (Rs 1.45 lakh for 25 rooms), Residency Tower (Rs 1.96 lakh for 40 rooms), Government Guest House (Rs 21,123 for 13 rooms) and Government Rest House (Rs 3,600 for 4 rooms). The total bill amounted for accommodation was around Rs 23 Lakh.
“As per the information that has come out, around Rs one crore was spent on food and accommodation of the Loka Kerala Sabha delegates. The money spent was justified by stating that food was served to more than twice the number of delegates. The charges raised by the Opposition have now been found to be true,” said the Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala.
It remains to be seen how the Communist government justifies such extravaganza and for what gains exactly at a time when the state is standing at a precarious financial position.