As both the Centre and state governments reel under an economic crisis due to a prolonged lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Maharashtra government has given special permission to buy six high-end cars for four ministers, a bureaucrat and another department. These cars would approximately cost the exchequer Rs 1.37 crore.
The six cars are Innova Crysta seven-seaters, with each costing Rs 22.83 lakh. These will be used by School Education minister Varsha Gaikwad, her deputy (MoS) Bachchu Kadu, Sports Minister Sunil Kedar, his deputy Aditi Tatkare, Additional Chief Secretary of School Education and Sports Department, while the sixth vehicle is for the department's official use.
The move has drawn flak from the opposition BJP, which has questioned the Shiv Sena-led dispensation over its priorities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Government Resolution (GR) issued on July 3 said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the vehicle review committee of the state finance department approved the proposal to purchase a seven-seater multi-utility vehicle for Gaikwad as a special case. The total amount of Rs 22,83,086 for the vehicle includes the vehicle cost, GST, registration charges and accessories, it said.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Devendra Fadnavis, however, questioned the government's move. "How can purchasing vehicles for ministers be the priority of the government in the present scenario?" he asked.
"Buying vehicles cannot be the priority of the government at a time when it is allegedly deferring salaries of employees including health workers due to the COVID-19 crisis," he said.
"In such a situation, vehicles are being purchased. So, this leads to a question -- 'what is the government's priority?'. In such a situation, the chief minister and finance minister should follow strict policy," he said.
So far, Maharashtra has sustained a revenue loss of over Rs 50,000 crore in the past four months due to economic activities during the Covid-19 lockdown.
(With inputs from PTI)