New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has come under intense attack for purportedly granting Rs. 8 lakh from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for a government employees dance troupe's visit to Thailand.
The revelation was made in an RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali.
The RTI reply stated that Fadnavis approved Rs 8 lakh for a government employees dance troupe to participate in a competition in Bangkok in December. He sanctioned the sum that was transferred to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for the dance contest.
"The application was sent by the CM to the CM Relief Fund desk with instructions to put up the application as a special case. On August 27, the application was put up before the CM as a special case and Rs 8 lakhs was immediately sanctioned by the CM," Galgali said.
Clarifying over the issue, Fadnavis said, “CM's relief fund has separate accounts for drought relief, Jalyukt Shivar and other."
"Of the third, 25% funds are reserved for cultural activities out of which we sponsored the people in question," he added.
An official from the CMO also said there is no wrongdoing in disbursing of the fund.
Registered in 1967 with the charity commissioner, the CM's relief fund can be used for funding cultural activities, the official said, amid mounting criticism of the move.
"The disbursement of the fund is made at the discretion of the Chief Minister, and in accordance with the Chief Ministers directions," said the official.
The official further said that funds were granted for government employees and were not for any commercial performance.
On the other hand, Galgali said that CM's relief fund is to be used only for those affected by natural disasters.
The latest revelation has sparked a row with the opposition questioning the BJP-led government's "priorities" at a time when the state is reeling under severe drought.
Maharashtra Congress general secretary Sanjay Dutt said the government's priorities are flawed.
"It attaches more importance to funds for dance than funds for drought," he said.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told PTI that the state government "which does not have funds to help cancer and heart patients, was very prompt in giving money for the dance troupe's visit to Thailand".
The government should recover the money and if it fails to do so, Fadnavis should pay from his pocket, he said.
The Gymkhana had sought aid to send its 15-member team of government employees to enable them to participate in a dance competition in Bangkok from December 26-30.
The 5th Cultural Olympiad of Performing Arts 2015 is being held in Bangkok by Global Council of Art and Culture.
In 2008, former CIC Shailesh Gandhi had revealed through RTI that public money collected between 2003 and 2005, when Congress-NCP regime was in power, went to the organisers of a kabaddi competition, a women's football match, a ghazal contest, a Marathi actor's fan club and a Congress MLA's religious congregation.