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Free-fuel bill shoots up
- Ministers log miles, transport dept frets

The government is running on a full tank, fuelling a surge in the diesel expenditure of ministers that the cash-strapped transport department is struggling to bear.

A proposal to ask individual ministries to foot their ministers’ monthly fuel bills has been sent to the finance ministry for approval after a review of diesel consumption revealed how some members of the Mamata Banerjee cabinet were routinely exceeding their entitlement (see chart).

“The transport department has long overshot its fuel budget for this fiscal. It has been footing ministers’ fuel bills for decades, but it’s time the ministries paid for their ministers’ travel,” a senior official said.

Going by the fuel consumption chart, the transport department has been spending around Rs 20,000 a month on each minister’s travel. That’s a little over Rs 8 lakh on fuel — a litre of diesel costs Rs 43.74 — each month. Most of this fuel is sourced from the seven depots of the Calcutta State Transport Corporation across the city.

Chief minister Mamata recently asked transport minister Subrata Bakshi to take steps to stop “bad expenditure”, which officials of the department see as a valid reason to discontinue the practice of footing the fuel bills of ministers.

“We have sent a series of proposals to the finance department and this is just one of them,” transport secretary B.P. Gopalika confirmed to Metro, but declined to give details.

Over the past three months since the Trinamul-led government took over, fuel consumption has been steadily rising with most ministers logging extra miles every day. Most ministers prefer SUVs like the Mahindra Scorpio or sedans like the Maruti SX4, which struggle to give around 9km to the litre with the AC on.

The official daily quota is around 12 litres for commuting within the city but the standard demand is for a “full tank” almost every day, an official said.

“If we refuse the drivers, their bosses start calling up the office to say they needed a full tank for visits outside the city. On politely asking for a tour programme, we are told that ministers are not answerable to us.”

The erstwhile Left Front government had introduced the 12-litre-per-day norm for intra-city travel. Several ministers of the Trinamul-led government have not only used fuel from the city car pool quota over the past three months, but have also taken diesel in huge quantities from the district pool.

CONSUMPTION CHART

Manjul Krishna Thakur: 840 litres in city and 770 litres from district pool (for June)
Madan Mitra: 782 litres in city and 472 litres from district pool
Arup Roy: 670 litres
Purnendu Basu: 445 litres in city and 520 litres from district pool
Bratya Basu: 404 litres in city and 440 litres from district pool

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