An RTI filed by Rahul Sehrawat, a resident of Hisar, Haryana, has shed light on how the state government spent a staggering Rs 3,79,500 to buy just ten copies of the Bhagavad Gita during the International Gita Mahotsav in November 2017. Each copy reportedly cost the government more than Rs 37,000.
According to the Times of India, “Sources confirmed that the copies were prepared with special paper and were designed in such a manner that they looked like ancient manuscripts.”
The copies were reportedly given as gifts to VVIPs attending the event. More so, the RTI reply states that the state also paid Rs 15 lakh to BJP MP and Bollywood star Hema Malini and Rs 10 lakh to Delhi BJP president and actor Manoj Tiwari for their performances at the event.
But the information, provided by the Kurukshetra Development Board, does not fully delve into why a total of Rs 15 crore had been sanctioned for the event as it only explains how Rs 4.32 crore was spent. The RTI reply shows that ‘Tanvi Stationers’ was paid for the ten copies.
It has been reported that the Haryana government has denied these allegations.
At the time of the event, Haryana chief minister ML Khattar had said that “the money was spent on creating awareness in society and was needed in the larger interest of society”, and that the expenses had been incurred after a great deal of “deliberation”.
Among the ‘VVIPs” who attended the event were Union minister Uma Bharti, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat and the governors of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The opposition has questioned the need to spend such large sums of hard-earned taxpayer money on such frivolous gifts. Calling the government an “event management company”, Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda quipped that he hoped that the government had “not used gold in preparing the copies”.
“The RTI information itself is sufficient to prove grave misuse of public money,” Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader and Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala was reported as saying by Scroll. “I hope the chief minister [Manohar Lal Khattar] would conduct a fair inquiry into such misappropriation of public money.”