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Mumbai: The cash-strapped Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has no money to pay salaries to 17 lakh employees, but can shell out Rs 1.37 crore for the purchase of six new luxury cars for ministers and bureaucrats of the department of school education, youth and sports. Each car -- Toyota Innova Crysta -- costs Rs 22.8 lakh. These cars will be purchased for the use of Minister of School Education Varsha Gaikwad, Minister of State for School Education Bachhu Kadu, Minister of State for Sports & Youth Welfare Aditi Tatkare, Additional Chief Secretary of Department of School Education & Sports Vandana Krishna, and one for the staff (department use). Incidentally, the Department of School Education and Sports’ proposal to purchase the cars has been cleared by the Finance Department and also by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The department desk officer, LV Sawant, had issued a notification two days after Minister of Relief and Rehabilitation Vijay Wadettiwar had revealed that the state government has to raise debt to pay salaries to its employees. "Situation of the state is such that we will have to take a loan to pay salaries of government employees next month. Except for 3-4 departments, expenses have been cut," he said.

He, however, clarified that the government will provide necessary funds to fight the war against coronavirus pandemic and pay the salaries of frontline warriors including police personnel, doctors, paramedics, nurses and other employees from essential services. It must be mentioned here that the government has already imposed a 67% cut in the planned expenditure due to revenue shortfall in the wake of lockdown. The state had to pay 40% of the March salary to the elected representatives -- from the chief minister (CM) to the gram panchayat members, while the government employees got 50% to 75% in the first instalment.

The remaining part of the March salary was released later. The government’s outgo towards monthly salaries and pension is of the order of Rs 9,000 crore. It has a revenue shortfall of over Rs 1.50 lakh crore since the imposition of lockdown in March. The opposition BJP has criticised the government’s move. BJP spokesman Ram Kadam said the government cannot pay the salaries of their employees, but can spend to purchase luxury cars for ministers.

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Free Press Journal