Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Govt. spends 1.75 Crores on IFTAR parties: Swamy writes to Minister

Many different departments of the Government of India have been spending public money on Iftar parties . Despite a clear directive from the ministry of finance not to spend public money on such religious parties , various departments continue to do that. According to a news item published in August 6, 2012 issue of Indian Express Online  ( Full news item reproduced here from Internet), the PMO, External Affairs Ministry ,LOk Sabha & Rajya Sabha Secretariat and the CPWD have spent Rs. 1.75 Crores over the past 10 years.    Janata Party President Dr Subramanian Swamy has asked the External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid to ask whether the minister would consider similar funds  for parties related to Hindu festivals also . 

The  text of the letter written by Dr Swamy and the original news item ,are reproduced here. 

 July 2, 2013.

Mr. Salman Khurshid,
Minister of External Affairs,
South Block,
New Delhi.

Dear Salman,

            With this letter I enclose a news item posted online in Indian Express of August 6, 2012 regarding the expenses out of public funds by the Ministry of External Affairs and other Departments  for meeting the expenses on Iftar parties.   I write to ask whether you would consider also providing funds for the celebration of Holi and Deepavali or will such expenses be confined only for Iftar parties.  If so, why so?
            Best Regards,
                                                                        Yours sincerely,
                                                                    Subramanian Swamy

MoF says can’t spend public money on iftar, but govt spent Rs 1.75 cr in 10 yrs
Shyamlal Yadav : New Delhi, Mon Aug 06 2012, 01:00 hrs
The Prime Minister's Office, External Affairs Ministry, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats and Central Public Works Department (CPW-D) have spent Rs 1.75 crore on 18 iftar parties over the past 10 years even though the Ministry of Finance (MoF) maintains that public funds can't be used for such events.

In fact, responses of different departments to an RTI application filed by The Indian Express, seeking details of expenses on iftar parties — not a few of which were hosted in the past decade — reveal a lack of clarity about rules regarding such expenditure. While the MoF's Department of Expenditure said expenses on iftar parties are not allowed from the state exchequer — it also said the host departments didn't seek its permission for such parties — other departments maintained otherwise.

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat, which has spent Rs 22.75 lakh on five iftar parties since 2007-08, said: "Yes, the secretariat bears expenses incurred in this regard." When asked under which rule, it replied: "There is no rule. It is as per the convention." It, however, added that "expenditure is met on shared basis in the ratio of 2:1 between the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and the Ministry of External Affairs."
The Lok Sabha Secretariat said spending public money on iftar parties was allowed and that it has spent Rs 5.83 lakh on two such parties in 2010 and 2011. "Expenditure on iftar parties is met from the hospitality grant of the Lok Sabha Secretariat," it added.

The PMO's response to the RTI request, on the other hand, was interesting: its reply to almost all queries about iftar parties was that "information sought is not a part of records held by this office". The PMO has hosted six iftar parties since 2004 at a cost of Rs 1.03 crore, which, it said, was borne by the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) and the CPWD.

The MEA, on its part, said it has spent about Rs 41.48 lakh on 10 iftar parties, including the ones hosted by the PMO, since 2004. But to all other queries on the matter, it replied: "No specific information available".

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Cancel Jet-Etihad deal says Swamy.

Janata Party President Dr Subramanian swamy has questioned bi-lateral deal on airline seats and the agreement between Jet Airways and Etihad airline. 

Dr Swamy has written two letters to PM on the issue and has brought out the fear that it is likely to be a security risk  to India. 
On Tuesday Dr Swamy was interviewed by CNBC-TV18 on this issue, which was carried out on the website  The same is being reproduced here .

Cancel Jet deal; will move court to stop Air Asia: Swamy
Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said he is vehemently opposed the idea of Air Asia operating out of India, saying he will move court to stop it from taking off.

Even though the PMO has asserted that government is not divided over the air services agreement between India and Abu Dhabi, cracks are apparent. That the trouble for the Rs 2058-crore deal was far from over became clear when the PMO advised the ministry of civil aviation to consider a calibrated approach towards aviation deals.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said the clearance for the Jet-Ethiad deal got delayed on his insistence. Swamy is the staunchest opponent of the deal. He is also vehemently opposed to the idea of Air Asia operating out of India , saying he will move court to stop it from taking off.
Below is the edited transcript of his interview with CNBC-TV18:

Q: Before I actually get to the objections that you have raised as far as the Jet-Etihad deal is concerned, let me ask you about why you are opposing the AirAsia deal? You have said this morning that you want the AirAsia deal scrapped. What is your objection to the AirAsia deal?

A: The policy was very clear that there are two aspects of it. One is that foreign investment is only permitted for an existing airline. There is no existing airline here in India. Tata is not an existing airline, therefore I have a good opinion about AirAsia.

Q: If you have a good opinion about them, if the Indian consumer stands to benefit, then why would you oppose this particular transaction. Why are you opposing this particular deal and even as far as the foreign direct investment (FDI) regulation is concerned, that matter was clarified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP)?

A: They have not clarified it. The civil aviation ministry has stated in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) that this is against the regulations that it has to be an existing airline. Ajit Singh said to one of the leading newspaper that under no circumstances it can be given to any airline which is not existing.

Q: If we are living by regulations, the FIPB has taken a decision to allow AirAsia to operate in this country. The FIPB, which has had consultations with each and every ministry that you just talked about, has said that AirAsia is okay with flying in this country?

A: The FIPB is one of the most scandalous bodies of India under Chidambaram’s leadership. It did so in the Aircel-Maxis also and it has done it in this and when I challenge it in court, I will bring it out. How did they disregard this fundamental regulation?

Q: Is your objection against the FIPB or is your objection against Chidambaram?

A: Both combined. There is no difference between the two.

Q: So are you saying that even as far as the AirAsia matter is concerned that you are going to move court?

A: Of course, I may move earlier than this one because I think Jet and Etihad is going to take a long time to finalise.

Q: So you are saying that you will actually move on AirAsia before you will move the Supreme Court against Jet-Etihad?

A: Yes, because Jet-Etihad is going to take a long time to consider. It’s not going to be cleared soon.

Q: If you are now saying that Jet-Etihad will take a long time to clear. Through the day and in your letter to the Prime Minister, you have been talking about the sense of urgency, the haste that the government has shown in trying to clear this deal. You yourself are now saying that the Jet-Etihad deal is far from being cleared?

A: Thanks to my letter it is going to be delayed. Otherwise it would have been cleared by now.

Q: So, you are taking credit for the fact that the government hasn’t acted on giving it clearance?

A: I am not taking credit. I wrote a letter and the action followed immediately after my letter. Actions speak louder than anything, I might say.

Q: Lets look at the facts and lets leave conjecture aside. The Indian government has not signed the bi-lateral agreement with the Abu Dhabi government so far. As far as the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance is concerned, the Jet-Etihad deal has not been cleared by the FIPB the matter was deferred again. As far as Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi's) clearance is concerned, the matter has not been cleared by Sebi. As far as the competition commission of India (CCI) is concerned, the matter has not been cleared by the CCI as yet. So, perhaps are you being a bit premature in pronouncing the fact that this deal ought to be scrapped?

A: Had I not written the letter on May 28, the FIPB would have cleared it on June 11.  That was the understanding that I have on the basis of what people told me.

May of them are members of the FIPB meeting. It’s because of my letter that this happened. So, its not premature, it was very well timed. It was at the right time.

When I saw that they were even disregarding the parliamentary committee, standing committee report I thought the time had come for me to write a letter. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister to say that if the deal gets cleared, he would be culpable under Section 13 of the prevention of corruption Act.

Q: What is your biggest objection? Is your objection the bilateral agreement or is it the ownership issue?

A: If my biggest objection has to be summarised, it is that the Indian airlines industry is sought to be wrecked by four ministers who have some other motives other than national interest.

Q: You are saying that you will move the Supreme Court against AirAsia’s deal, but you will not move the Supreme Court against Jet-Etihad atleast not as of now?

A: Yes, till they take a decision I can't move. I will go to the Supreme Court as far as AirAsia is concerned.

Q: They have crossed the FIPB, but they are yet to get a licence to fly?

A: FIPB is an illegal decision. So, I have a cause of action. There is no decision where I can take cause of actions in the court. You must know the requirements of the court before I can go to court.

( Kind courtesy :, Jul 03, 2013, 01.06 PM IST