In the last two months, the Karnataka government collected as much as Rs 267 crore for its Covid-19 relief fund but not a single rupee was spent by the end of May.
This was revealed in a Right to Information reply by the state government to Bengaluru-based activist Narasimha Murthy.
According to the RTI, donations worth Rs 267,72,37,574 were received in the Chief Minister's Covid-19 relief fund between March 25 and May 19, but the money has not been used. When questioned, the government said the money has been set aside for “emergency use” and currently, various department funds are being used.
The reply, however, has failed to impress the opposition as well as the general public, which is left asking what is a bigger emergency than a pandemic that has killed thousands in India, left millions of people jobless and drowned the economy.
"Now is the emergency. What else is an emergency? Now if we get something it will be helpful, we can pay rent. Later it will not be needed," Shivakumar, an auto driver, who could not get any rides because of the two-month lockdown, told CNN-News18.
Mangamma, a fruit seller in Bengaluru, also said the government help must be immediate. "Government needs to help now…now is when we are on the roads. The government does not allow even doing business on footpaths. It must help us now."
The BS Yediyurappa government had in May announced a relief package of close to Rs 1800 crore for farmers, vegetable growers, vendors, auto and taxi drivers among others, but it is yet to be dispersed fully.
Rs 5000 for each driver was announced as a one-time relief, for which about one lakh drivers have registered. While the government expects 6.5 lakh more drivers to register for this, it released Rs 40 crore on June 10 that would benefit 80,000 drivers.
"Already, from treasury (we have spent) on infrastructure, incentive whatever… lot of money has been spent already. This money has a long way since the virus is going to stay for a long period. Scope for utilisation will remain. We are not in a hurry," said Ashwath Narayan, deputy Chief Minister.
But Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa compared the situation to the PM Cares fund launched by Narendra Modi that has also been subject to allegations of lack of transparency.
"This sounds like the PM Cares fund for which too we haven't got any clarity. What is collected, where is it spent? We don't know. BJP is using this money to buy MLAs," he alleged.
Refuting the allegations, Narayan said that the government is subject to scrutiny and accountability and assured this money will be used for Covid-19 relief.
“That's the reason, in a separate head account, money is collected. Otherwise we could have collected in CM fund. Exclusively we have collected for Covid-19 so that to ensure this money is used for Covid19 itself," he further said.