Plenty in the midst of poverty

Hyderabad, September 01: The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating. Going by that yardstick, the ‘Development Review Meet’ convened by Municipal Administration Minister Anam Ramnarayana Reddy on 29 August, 2009 can be described as an unqualified success.

The proceedings consisted only of pompous speeches, and no new decisions were taken, but the snacks and the lunch were terrific. So what if the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB), Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) have to pay anywhere between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for the sumptuous repast served up by a star hotel? And all this at a time when the state is reeling under the impact of recession.

In fact, only on August 20, a Government Order (GO) had been issued asking all departments to be as frugal as possible and cut down on frills.

The meeting in question was attended by elected representatives (MPs, MLAs and MLCs) of the Greater Hyderabad region to discuss development activities in the GHMC limits, obviously with the forthcoming elections in view.

As many as four Cabinet Ministers, six MPs, 17 MLAs, seven MLCs, over a dozen IAS officials, more than 200 senior officials from the GHMC, HMDA, HMWS&SB, APCPDCL, QQSUDA, APSRTC, R&B and other departments attended it.

Also partaking of the sumptuous repast were close to 300 to 400 supporters of elected representatives as well as a few dozen of their security personnel, drivers and other staff, a strong posse of policemen, and hundreds of employees of the Water Board at the head office of which the meeting was held.

Altogether, it is estimated that around 2,000 people tucked into the goodies dished out by a reputed-star hotel in Masab Tank, allegedly at a cost of around Rs 600 to Rs 700 a plate.

This extravagance clearly flew in the face of the GO issued by the Finance Department, directing all departments, public enterprises, district collectorates, municipalities, corporations and other entities to exercise economy in expenditure for the financial year 2009-10.

The order clearly stated that entertaining at government expenditure should be reduced to the barest minimum and that all departments bear this in mind while holding conferences, seminars and meetings.