Dipping revenues are clearly no reason to stop those that claim to be in the service of the public from shopping for new wheels of their choice. Notwithstanding a 50 per cent dip in revenue collection - Rs 42,000 crore against the estimated Rs 84,000 crore in April-June quarter due to the lockdown, the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government has come out with a policy for the purchase of official vehicles for the governor, the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, the council of ministers, the judges of the high court, bureaucrats and others. The governor, CM, DCM, Chief Justice and the Lokayukta can pick any vehicle of their choice, price no bar.
Currently, the governor has a bullet-proof Mercedes Benz, which costs anywhere between Rs 75 lakh and Rs 1.50 crore. However, Governor BS Koshyari, amidst the present Covid-19 crisis, has austerely decided to stick with his luxury vehicle.
The CM and his deputy have a bullet-proof Tata Safari or Scorpio at their disposal, each of which is priced at Rs 18-20 lakh.
The state government has issued a notification justifying its decision, saying that it was necessary, as earlier notifications issued in 2012 and 2014, with suggested prices, have expired. It is mandatory that vehicles for official use be purchased through Gem Portal.
District collectors will be entitled to purchase vehicles with a maximum price of Rs 20 lakh comprising GST, other charges and accessories, for ministers and state guests travelling in the districts. Cabinet ministers, ministers of state, high court judges and the Up-Lokayukta can pick any vehicle of their choice but may not exceed Rs 20 lakh, GST, other charges and accessories included. At present, cabinet ministers and ministers of state travel by Toyota Innovas, priced at Rs 16-30 lakh.
For the chief secretary, the advocate general, the chief information commissioner and chairman of the Right to Services Commission, the budget is Rs 15 Lakh, GST, other charges and accessories included. For other bureaucrats and members of the State Information Commission, their vehicle budget is Rs 12 lakh, for divisional commissioners - Rs 10 lakh, for district collectors and registrars of courts - Rs 9 lakh and for the governor's office - Rs 8 lakh.
Such an exhaustive automobile budget from a government so cash-strapped that it has been paying its 17 lakh employees' salaries in instalments. The government's recent decision to shell out Rs 1.37 crore for the purchase of six new luxury vehicles for ministers and bureaucrats in the department of school education, youth and sports -Toyota Innova Crystal's, costing Rs 22.8 lakh had drawn censure for the same reason.