Even as Telangana staggers under the economic shadow of the coronavirus-induced downturn, the state government demonstrated a reckless display of profligacy as it splurged Rs 11 crore for buying 32 luxury cars for IAS officers in the state. The decision has drawn flak from opposition parties, given that state is already reeling under a debt of Rs 40,000 crore and a devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
32 Kia Carnival cars were bought by the Telangana government and were handed over to 32 additional collectors after they finished a review meeting with Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao at Pragati Bhavan on Sunday. A video of the event showed CM K Chandrasekhar Rao inspecting the vehicles and the cars at the CM’s residence in Hyderabad. The 32 Kia Carnival cars are estimated to cost around Rs 25-30 lakhs each.
Earlier, the state government had provided Toyota Innova Crysta vehicles to bureaucrats and Toyota Fortuner SUVs to police for their use.
The state’s finances are in dire straits and yet the KCR government gave its approval for buying a fleet of luxury cars for its IAS officers. This decision has not gone well with the opposition parties and the activists, who have accused the Telangana government of having misplaced priorities even as COVID-19 continues to ravage the state.
Opposition parties slam KCR for extravagant spending on luxury cars amidst mounting debts
The opposition party BJP has decreed the decision of the KCR government and termed it a “criminal splurge of public exchequer” by CM KCR to “appease bureaucrats”.
“This recklessly extravagant use of public money is happening in the midst of the global pandemic while the poor and common people are buckling under the mounting pressure of debts due to COVID hospitalisation. How can Chief Minister Rao justify spending over 11 crores to buy 32 ultra-luxury vehicles?” BJP Spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao questioned the state government.
The BJP leaned on the Telangana Finance Minister T Harish Rao’s recent statement where he admitted that the state had lost massive revenue because of lockdowns and wanted increased FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) limits to raise more loans. Harish Rao had then asked the centre to increase the borrowing limit of the State from the present three per cent to five per cent under FRBM Act. He reasoned that the expenditure of the state has increased and revenues decreased due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Rao questioned, “How can the government justify this kind of opulence when the revenue is cratering? BJP is asking is that why you are taking loans for?” Rao said the BJP demands an immediate roll-back of the decision.
Even the Congress party was not pleased with the chief minister’s callous decision to spend on luxury cars even as the coronavirus pandemic was exacting an unprecedented economic toll. Calling out the audacity of the state government’s move, Congress’ D Sravan Kumar reportedly said, “As such KCR has pushed the surplus state of Telangana into a debt trap state with a whopping debt of Rs 40,000 crore. They already have government cars in good condition.”
In addition to the opposition parties, even activists have not minced words in criticising the decision taken by the KCR government.
“The state has no more than 650 ambulances under 108 services for four crore citizens i.e. approximately one ambulance for 60,000 citizens. Yet the CM hands out 32 cars of almost Rs 31 lakh each in the name of administration, costing Rs 9.2 crore. A high-end ambulance costs Rs 16 lakh,” said social activist Vijay Gopal.