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KARNATAKA SPLURGES ` 2C R ON PREZ VISIT.

REVEALED: Expensive renovation of Belgaum circuit house where Pranab spent an hour

WHEN it comes to splurging tax- payers' money the government does not think twice. This was proved by Karnataka government opening its purse- strings to welcome President Pranab Mukherjee in Belgaum at a whopping cost of ` 1.98 crore.

Bulk of this amount -- ` 1.61 crore -- was spent on renovating an old circuit house in Belgaum where the President stayed for barely an hour

during his visit two months ago. This included ` 37 lakh spent on refurbishing the main suite of the circuit house in which the President stayed for under an hour. The remaining money went towards incidental expenditure.

Curtains alone cost ` 5 lakh, while another ` 6 lakh was spent on the bathroom tiles, toilet doors and locks. An expenditure of ` 7.5 lakh

was incurred on buying bed sheets, towels and other kits while ` 4 lakh was spent on portraits to deck up the circuit house.

Mukherjee stayed in the circuit house for just hour during his half- day visit to the North Karnataka city to inaugurate Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, the second legislature building of the state, in October.

Though the Opposition is silent on the expenditure, Janata Dal ( Secular) was quick to seek an inquiry into it.

" How can the government spend so much for the President's visit? There has to be a justification for this. We are not sure if the expenditure matches the civil Pranab Mukherjee stayed in the circuit house for just an hour during his visit to Belgaum

works carried out," Lakkappa Gowda, spokesperson of JD( S), said.

An RTI application filed by activist Bheemappa Gadad has revealed that much of the expenditure has gone towards furnishing the room, interior decoration, decor, curtains, lighting fixtures, paintings, sculpture and other paraphernalia. The information was provided by the PWD in Belgaum which did not share the complete breakup of the expenditure.

Costly choice There are two circuit houses in Belgaum of which the other was already renovated during the World Kannada Meet in 2011. The government had spent ` 50 lakh on the other circuit house, ` 32 lakh in 2010- 11 and ` 18 lakh in 2011- 12. This was the second circuit house in which the President opted to stay because of its proximity to Suvarna Vidhana Soudha building.

The President inaugurated the Suvarana Vidhana Soudha building on October 11 amidst opposition from neighbouring Maharashtra, which claimed ownership of Belgaum citing the huge Maratha- speaking population. Maharashtra feared that the inauguration of the Suvana Vidhana Soudha building would jeopardise its legal battle for Belgaum.

Royal welcome On October 11, the President arrived in Belgaum and headed straight for the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha building where he was accorded a royal welcome. At a public function, he declared the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha building open.

" I hope the representatives of the region will utilise the new platform provided for good governance, economic growth and to remove regional imbalance," the President said in his address. The who's who of Karnataka politics were present at the event.

After inaugurating the building, the President headed straight for the renovated circuit house. He met senior leaders of the city and a delegation of citizens. " The President might have spent just under an hour at the circuit house interacting with local leaders.

He then left to attend other events," local politicians said.

The President then went to the Visvesvaraya Technological University ( VTU), the nodal agency for all engineering colleges in Karnataka for a meeting.

From VTU, the President headed straight for the Belgaum Airport from where he left for New Delhi the same evening of October 11.

It is not clear whether the Public Works Department ( PWD), which is responsible for the repairs and maintenance of the Circuit House in Bangalore, followed the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements Act, 1999, which makes it mandatory for the PWD to invite competitive bids from contractors to execute civil works, costing above ` 4 lakh.

" The revelation that the government spent such a huge amount on renovating an old circuit house in itself is shocking.

No doubt that the President's visit mandates such arrangements. But we need clear answers from the government on the expenditure," Lakkappa Gowda added.

Though the Opposition is silent on the expenditure, Janata Dal ( Secular) was quick to seek an inquiry into it

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Dec 28, 2012
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