Sunday, January 29, 2006

Did Communists falsify data about their boondoggles?

The West Bengal government has claimed that it cost the state exchequer only Rs. 18 lakh for the 14 foreign trips of the former Communist Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. Mr. Basu's foreign trips were elaborate affairs with an entourage accompanying him so the figure of Rs. 18 lakh is clearly is falsification. The purpose of the trip was to encourage foreign direct investment in Bengal, but as it has been pointed out in the article, chief ministers of states which attracted higher foreign direct investment didn't need regular foreign jaunts to entice investors.

Jyoti Basu’s 14 foreign trips cost state Rs 18 lakh only... (The Statesman, Jan 28,2006)
Excerpt:

The state government has stated that it incurred an expenditure of Rs 18,25,600 in connection with the foreign trips of former chief minister, Mr Jyoti Basu, between 1987 and 2000.
The government said this in a letter to the state BJP president, Mr Tathagata Roy, on 25 January. Mr Roy had asked for the information from the state government, exercising the right of a citizen in accordance to the Right to Information Act.
Incidentally, this is the first instance of the state government having to cater information to a member of the public after the Act has been enforced in West Bengal.
In a letter to Mr Roy, the joint secretary, home (political) department, Mr AG Ghosh, also informed that the state government had incurred another expenditure of Rs 4,60,722 in connection with the foreign trips of chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for the period between 15 September, 2001 and 26 August, 2005.
The state has received foreign direct investment worth Rs 5,345.90 crore during 1991-2005, the letter added.
The state BJP chief, however, however, was less than impressed by the information.
“Mr Basu had undertaken at least 14 foreign trips between 1987 and 2000 — almost one trip a year. These trips used to last for three weeks to a month and he used to be accompanied by his family members as well as officials. Considering the huge expenditure involved, the figure given by the government is ridiculously low,” Mr Roy said today. “The question is, then, who had to foot the rest of the bill? Or has the government falsified the account to show a low figure?”
Referring to the information provided on the “poor FDI inflow” to the state over the last 15 years, he pointed to the Centre’s reply to a question raised in Rajya Sabha on 27 April, 2005 regarding FDI inflow in states.
According to him, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and other states received FDI to the tune of Rs 37,169 crore to 12,744 crore during this period. “None of the chief ministers of the above states undertake yearly jaunts abroad. The CPI-M owes an explanation to the people of the state on this misuse of public money,” the BJP leader charged.
The CPI-M state secretary, Mr Anil Biswas, refused to join issue with Mr Roy. “I can only answer questions on behalf of the party; it is for the government to respond to these allegations.”

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