Bhopal: About Rs 1.58 crore was spent for making arrangements for the stay of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and three of his top bureaucrats in Switzerland, among other expenses, according to RTI documents.
Kamal Nath and Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary S R Mohanty, Principal Secretary to the chief minister Ashok Barnwal and Principal Secretary,Department of Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion of the state government, Mohammed Suleman participated in the World Economic Forum, 2019 in Davos, Switzerland held in January, it said.
The delegation of Madhya Pradesh government participated in the exclusive business lounge in Davos to co-brand the state along with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, government of India, the RTI documents said.
The state government, in its response, however, said the actual amount spent was roughly Rs 1 crore.
It also named other states which had attended the meeting and also mentioned the expenditure incurred by them.
“Further, Madhya Pradesh is not the only state which participated in the annual meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana & Maharashtra have also participated in the Davos annual meeting,” a statement issued by the state government said.
As per reports available Andhra Pradesh’s delegation was of 11 members and state’s expenditure was of roughly Rs 16 crore on the entire visit, it said.
“Telangana’s overall expenditure was reported roughly around Rs nine crore for the visit. Similarly, Maharashtra’s reported expenditure was of Rs 7.63 crore in five days. It clearly emerges from the above facts that Madhya Pradesh has managed to attend the same event in relatively a very small expenditure,” the statement said.
It said Davos is the most prestigious investment event across the world and participation in the event helped in brand building of Madhya Pradesh.
“The state is facing tough competition from competitor states, therefore branding and promotion of the existing industrial ecosystem and its conducive policies is vital,” the statement said.
“During this (Davos annual meeting) event, state has received numerous investor interests. With nearly 20 of them, the discussions have reached in advanced stages of investments,” it said.
Further, new investment opportunities were identified in Madhya Pradesh by 4-5 investors across sectors like auto, IT, manufacturing, etc, the statement said.
The dedicated team members of the delegation in collaboration with ‘Invest India’ will closely interact with potential investors, academia, policy makers and others to highlight the state as a highly potential investment destination in central India so as to get them attracted for making investments in various sectors in Madhya Pradesh, the state government had defined as the purpose of the visit, as per the RTI document.
It said if the visit is not undertaken then Madhya Pradesh may lose opportunities of investment promotion to get investments in the state.
In a note sheet, a copy of which was received in response to the RTI application filed by anti-corruption activist Ajay Dubey, necessary approval for expenditure of nearly Rs 1.58 crore on the trip, including that on a session on Madhya Prades, was sought on January 5.
Further, it is clarified that a representative of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Madhya Pradesh is also accompanying the delegation and the financial sanction of Rs 1,57,85,000 accorded for the above visit to Davos, also covers the cost of air tickets, accommodation, etc. of the CII representative, an order said.
Giving the break up, it said Rs 30 lakh was paid for air ticket and visa expenses for Davos, Rs 45 lakh for hotel (stay and meeting room), Rs 9.5 lakh on local conveyance, Rs two lakh for VIP lounge access at Zurich airport, Rs 50,000 on travel insurance and Rs 40 lakh on DIPP lounge participation charges and promotional material.
Rs 1.5 lakh was the Dearness Allowance (DA) at the rate of USD 100 per day and Rs 15 lakh was for miscellaneous expenses, the RTI reply said.
An amount of Rs 14.35 lakh was paid as ten per cent administrative fees to the CII, it said.
Such a huge expenditure of Rs 1.58 crore was totally avoidable especially when the state is trying hard to improve its accounts. There could have been better use of the tax payers’ money, Dubey said.
Suleman had on December 20 written to the Indian embassy in Switzerland asking for their support for hotel bookings one executive suite for the chief minister and three premium rooms for the chief secretary and principal secretaries.
He had also asked the embassy for two cars, including one luxury car for Kamal Nath for local transport during the visit, as per Suleman’s email, a copy of which was provided by the state government in response to the RTI query.
A delegation of more than 12 businessmen from renowned corporates had also visited Switzerland. The delegation members had paid for their visit.
On January 5, Suleman had sought approval from seniors concerned in the chief minister’s office and the state government’s industrial policy and investment promotion department seeking approval for Shanu Mehta, promoter of Indore-based firm to be part of the delegation for Davos.
The permission was later granted, officials said.
Incidentally, Suleman was transferred from the department of industrial policy and investment promotion to the planning and statistics department on March 2.
The World Economic Forum held annually to brainstorm on crucial matters including that on economy and geo-political by the rich and powerful people. The summit was held from January 21 to 25 this year.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.