Is the Maharashtra government cash-strapped? There seem to be contradictory reports at present. The state that has been worst hit by the COVID-19 virus had recently indicated that with no support from the Centre, matters had reached such a level that a loan would be needed to pay the salaries of government employees next month.
"Situation of the state is such that we will have to take a loan to pay the next month salaries of government employees. Except for 3-4 departments, expenses have been cut in other departments," Maharashtra Minister Vijay Wadettiwar had said during a press conference on Thursday.
Now, a few days later, on Saturday, July 4, the Maharashtra government has sanctioned Rs 22.83 lakh for the purchase of an official vehicle for state minister Varsha Gaikwad. A PTI report that quotes a Government Resolution issued on July 3, says that this was approved as a special case for the Education Minister by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the vehicle review committee of the state finance department. The amount includes the cost of the seven-seater multi-utility vehicle as well as GST, registration charges and accessories.
But that is not all. As per an NDTV report, the state government has cleared the purchase of six such expensive cases, each falling in the same price range. Reportedly, the total cost comes to around Rs 1.37 crore.
The Opposition BJP has taken the topic up, with former Chief Minister and present Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis questioning the move. While Fadnavis wondered how this could be a priority at present, BJP leader Ram Kadam alleged that the government "hasn't supported their people".
"We request the government to return wage cuts and provide an economic package," he was quoted as saying.
It must be mentioned however that the state government had on Thursday released Rs 2000 crore under the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Karjmukti Yojna to financial institutions to hasten the process of loan waiver for farmers. While the Chief Minister had promised to complete the waiver process by March, this is just a quarter of the total funds needed.
Also on Thursday, Wadettiwar had said that "there is no cash crunch for handling COVID-19 situation in the state". He had further clarified that the Saarthi scheme for students' fellowship will continue and added that Rs 50 crore budget has been allocated for the scheme this year.
(With inputs from agencies)