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MP govt spent Rs 1.58 crore for Switzerland visit of CM Kamal Nath and 3 officials, reveals RTI reply

Chief Minister Kamal Nath and his 3 bureaucrats cost the state exchequer a whopping 1.58 crore at Davos, revealed an RTI by anti-corruption activist Ajay Dubey.

Kamal Nath, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and 3 officials have cost the state exchequer a whopping 1.58 crore during their recent visit to Davos, Switzerland, according to information revealed through an RTI.

The CM was accompanied by 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. The official delegation representing Madhya Pradesh government participated alongside Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, government of India, at the World Economic Forum, 2019 to co-brand the state and woo investors.

The state government had defined the purpose of the visit to collaborate with ‘Invest India.’ The delegation was said to closely interact with potential investors, academia, policymakers among others and project the state as a highly potential investment destination across sectors in central India. It was highlighted that missing the visit could make the state lose viable investment opportunities.

Anti-corruption activist Ajay Dubey had filed the RTI to know the detail of the trip. In a note sheet, a copy of which was received in response to the RTI  filed by Dubey, approval for expenditure amounting to nearly Rs 1.58 crore on the trip, including that on a session on Madhya Pradesh, was sought on January 5.

The RTI clarified that one representative of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Madhya Pradesh was also a part of this delegation. The financial sanctions for Davos visit included the costs of air tickets and accommodation etc. of the CII representative.

According to the cost break up, Rs 30 lakh was paid for air ticket and visa expenses, Rs 45 lakh for hotel (stay and meeting room), Rs 9.5 lakh on local conveyance, Rs 2 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 Dearness Allowance (DA) at the rate of USD 100 per day and Rs 15 lakh was for miscellaneous expenses, the RTI revealed. Also, Rs 14.35 lakh was paid to the CII as administrative fees.

According to Dubey, this expense was totally avoidable especially at a time when the state was reeling under stress and needed to improve its accounts. He also suggested that ‘tax payers’ money could have been managed better.

The RTI also reveals that Suleman had written to the Indian embassy in Switzerland on December 20 requesting their support for hotel bookings that included one executive suite for the CM and three premium rooms for the rest. He had also urged the embassy to provide two cars, which included one luxury car for Nath. This was to be used for local commutation during the visit. Suleman’s email copy was provided by the state government in response to the RTI query.

A delegation of more than 12 businessmen from renowned corporate houses had also visited Switzerland during the same period. However, they had paid for their visit.

The RTI  also divulged that 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 for this was granted later.

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 holds an annual brainstorming summit on crucial matters including economy and geopolitical attended by political and business leaders from across the world. This year, the meet was held from January 21 to 25.

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