The Amrut Mahotsav cultural event organised by Nagpur Improvement Trust at the end of October, 2012 has come out of the closet to haunt its former chief Praveen Darade. The event has snowballed into fresh controversy after a recent RTI revelation that a whopping expense of Rs 3 crores was incurred towards the cost of event, without taking government’s nod for it.
An RTI query filed by a group of activists called Transparent Responsible Accountable People (TRAP) movement revealed that the then NIT Chairman Praveen Darade, now Personal Secretary to the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, had splurged hugely that ran many times more than his financial powers. And he did that without seeking any government approval to go ahead with such a costly affair. Moreover the NIT got four sponsors on board to conduct the event without undergoing any formal agreement with them. In view of this startling revelation, a complaint has been made to Manisha Patankar Mhaiskar, Principle Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development in which stern action has been demanded against Darade and concerned officials. It was also demanded to recover the cost from Darade’s salary.
The RTI filed by Bimal Kumar Khemani, founder member of Aligarh (UP) based TRAP, sought the expenditure details of Amrut Mahotsav that was organised from October 28, 2012 to October 31, 2012 on completion of 75 years of NIT. The query also sought information regarding the funds spent on the event and the committee formed to execute those funds.
Earlier, a law student and TRAP activist from Nagpur Ankita Shah filed writ petition objecting to event owing to the the ways in which public money was being wasted, putting the norms on backburner.
The RTI filed by Khemani also asked if any changes were made in the event after Shah’s petition came to the fore.
Talking to Nagpur Today over phone from Aligarh, Khemani said, “It came out that a huge spent of Rs 3 crores was done without taking government’s nod for the event. Under the act 24E of NIT, it is specifically mentioned that the Chairman’s power to spend funds is limited to few lakhs only, whereas Darade splurged as much as Rs 300 lakhs over the entire event. Reply under RTI showed that no permission was sought from higher authorities or government agencies.”
Khemani quipped, “It was not his (Darade’s) family function where he can pass any budget on his whims and fancies. Was it his son’s wedding ceremony that he allocated the funds on his free will? It was the public money which he wasted without undergoing procedure to get it approved by the higher government authorities.”
When asked what he was looking forward to do, Khemani said, “We only want to affirm that the amount spent on the event was channelised through blatant abuse of power and that the entire spent should be recovered from Darade’s salary.”
The RTI reply dated January 12, 2015, also revealed that four major sponsors were associated with Amrut Mahotsav which included Credai, Centre Point Hotel, Hotel Sun n’ Sand’ and Baba Travels. No sponsorship agreement was done with any of them nor the guidelines of the event was changed upon Ankita Shah’s petition, RTI reply said.