Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s call for austerity seems to have fallen on the deaf ears of the CMDA.
It has two posh offices within a km of each other. One of them was built last year, and in both offices, the rooms for senior officers are air-conditioned and well-furnished. They still put up stalls at fairs and continue with the practice of hiring cars, while departmental cars are sent to the dumps.
“We have cut down on expenses and taken measures to increase income,” asserted Asok Bhattacharya, urban development minister and chairman of CMDA. “We have cut down on the use of cars by 25 to 30 per cent. Telephone connections have been cut even in the case of senior officers. If their telephone bill exceeds the limit set, they will have to pay from their own pockets,” Bhattacharya added.
However, sources said Pravh Das, chief executive officer, and most senior officers have offices in both the buildings — Prashashan Bhavan and Unnayan Bhavan in Salt Lake. Das declined comment on the issue.
“Prashashan Bhavan was built last year at a cost of nearly Rs 6 crore. The monthly expenditure for running two offices amounts to nearly Rs 17 lakh,” a senior CMDA official said, on condition of anonymity. According to the officer, the CEO’s office at Unnayan Bhavan is used only on Tuesdays.
“The posts of several directors-general have been abolished. Yet, their rooms are left unused and expenses are incurred every month, including those of maintaining the air-conditioners and telephones,” the officer alleged.
He said although the number of hired cars had been slashed, “the tendency to hire new cars and condemn departmental cars continues”.
The urban development minister stressed that the two offices were necessary. “Earlier, we had several rented offices. A huge sum of money was paid as rent. But now, we have our own buildings,” Bhattacharya said.
The employees’ unions say this flouts the government’s austerity order. “A number of development projects are held up because of the funds crunch. The government is curtailing financial benefits. But waste of funds continues,” alleged P.B. Nag and Manab Dasgupta, joint conveners of the CMDA Suraksha Samity.
The CMDA has set up a stall at the ongoing Bidhannagar Mela. Even Jyoti Basu expressed his disapproval over the number of stalls put up by government organisations and undertakings. “The state had decided not to have stalls at fairs this year because of the funds crunch. But I can see a number of government stalls here,” Basu said in his inaugural speech.