CAG punches holes in UP`s Maha Kumbh spend

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 15:11

Lucknow: In a major embarrassment for the Uttar Pradesh government, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has punched many holes in the much-hyped 2013 Maha Kumbh in Allahabad.

The state government, which has been tom-toming its "great managerial skills" in organising the biggest religious congregation on the Earth, is on the backfoot as the audit has revealed many administrative oversights, financial irregularities and misappropriation of funds granted by the union government for the event.

The CAG report, tabled on Tuesday in the Vidhan Sabha during its ongoing budget session makes some serious and glaring revelations.

The voluminous and facts-backed report indicts the Akhilesh Yadav-led government for permitting 81 unauthorised construction works on the sprawling 58 square kilometre Kumbh Mela site on the banks of the holy trinity of rivers -- the Ganga, the Yamuna and the celestial Saraswati -- in Allahabad earlier last year.
"Of the 111 construction works that took place, as many as 81 were not technically authorised," the report notes.

Of the funds clearly earmarked for the Kumbh, Rs 8.27 crore was spent on construction of two "ghats", which were not part of the Kumbh Mela blueprint of works.

The report goes on to point out that the state government not only spent most of the central grants in organising the event but also utilised almost nothing from its own coffers despite earmarking Rs 1,152 crore for the 55-day-long religious congregation, which saw devouts from all over the world trooping into Allahabad.

While both Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Urban Development Minister Mohd. Azam Khan, the minister-in-charge of the religious do, on several occasions have spoken of the "huge amounts of funds" allocated by the Samajwadi Party (SP) government for the Kumbh, the CAG report shows the state only spent Rs 134.83 crore from its kitty.

The financial irregularities of the SP government did not end there. Of the Rs 1,141.63 crore received from the union government, the state government spent only Rs 1,017 crore. Of that, the state government utilised Rs 800 crore for meeting its own expenses!

The report also raises serious questions on the security arrangements in the Kumbh, which witnessed a footfall of millions.

According to findings of the auditor, none of the 85 close circuit television cameras (CCTVs) installed at various vantage positions of the mela site - the ghats, riverside, roads leading to the Mela and the railway and bus stations - were connected to the control room. This seriously compromised on the security and safety of millions who attended the event.
It also leads to suspicion this callousness could have led to the unfortunate deaths of 36 people at the Allahabad railway station Feb 10, 2013.

"This is nothing short of criminal negligence," fumed state Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak, who told IANS the party will take up the CAG report in its right earnest as it did not involve only financial bunglings but also security lapses that led to death of innocent people.

Adding to the shame are findings that while patients at the event faced acute shortage of medicines, half of the supplies were later administered to patients elsewhere. Moreover, most supplies were expired medicines.

The CAG also indicts the state government for trying to benefit contractors by devising means such as disbursing mobilisation and machinery advance payments through security deposits.

The report also details how payments have been done to tractors for tilling and levelling purposes and that they have been shown as working at two places at the same time.

Many numbers entered in the log books under tractor head are actually of scooters and cars. This, clearly was done to benefit the contractors owing allegiance to the ruling Samajwadi Party, a Bahujan Samaj Party legislator alleges.

Payments of Rs 57.41 crore under widening of roads and Rs 46.88 crore for road repairs were done without checking or verifying the work completion status.

The CAG reports leaves a lot of explaining to do for the state government, already tarred with failing law and order, nepotism and corruption charges.

Sad that Kumbh is now in the centre of an embarrassing situation for the state government as it was this event which propelled it in global fora, with even the Harvard University inviting the state chief minister and others to make a presentation on the "successful holding" of the Kumbh.

IANS

First Published: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 15:11

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