RTI Reveals PSUs Forced To Spend Rs 82 Cr On BJP’s Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas Events
“The Modi government was misusing the taxpayers’ money to get publicity for political gain,” said RTI activist Neeraj Sharma.
A series of RTI applications have brought to light that the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre made Public Sector Undertakings(PSUs) organise and bear the expenses of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas Sammelan (SSSVS)’ events all over India.
Around 550 to 575 events were organised by the PSUs in 2017, which cost a total of Rs 82 crores. These events were held to mark the completion of three years of the Narendra Modi government, reported The Wire. ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas‘ was BJP’s campaign slogan for the 2014 general elections.
The responses to the RTI applications filed by Neeraj Sharma reveal how these PSUs were made to spend government money on what were effectively BJP events. Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) wrote in its reply about a meeting called by Minister of State In-charge of Petroleum and Natural Gas at his residential office on May 18, 2017. The meeting was attended by the top brass of oil PSUs like GAIL, ONGC, IOCL, OIL, BPCL, HPCL, NRL, CPCL etc.
GAIL’s reply said, “during deliberations, it was decided by the MoP&NG that all the oil PSUs would carry out various events on the subject theme in 227 districts all over the country out of the 583 districts identified for the purpose.”
The remaining 356 districts were to be, “taken care of by other PSUs in the ministries of power, coal, mining, aviation, shipping, telecommunications, chemicals and fertilisers, urban development, information and broadcasting, etc,” reported The Wire.
GAIL’s reply also reveals that in another meeting held on May 22, 2017, the joint secretary in the MoP&NG had implied that each event would cost about 10-15 lakhs, except the event in PM Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, “which may likely incur Rs 50 lakhs considering Hon’ble PM’s constituency and likely visit of Cabinet Ministers for the event.”
The reply submitted by National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) India Limited, the PSUs were supposed to publicise Centre’s schemes. The Ministry of Urban Development wrote in a memo sent to the PSUs on May 29, 2017 that during the SSSVS events, “interactive sessions will be held with beneficiaries who have received benefits under the flagship schemes.”
The RTI activist, Sharma, said that this money that the PSUs were told to spend on publicity, was over and above the money that was spent by Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity and other ministries on the publicity of the event. “The Modi government was misusing the taxpayers’ money to get publicity for political gain,” Sharma told The Wire.