The Telegraph
Saturday , May 3 , 2014
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Funds for publicity, not to clear payment

Bhubaneswar, May 2: The state government can loosen its purse strings to launch a publicity blitz, but it cries funds crunch when it comes to clearing old dues.

The city had hosted the 99th National Science Congress two years ago and many government departments and agencies took part in it.

However, the organisers are awaiting the government to release a little over Rs 25 lakh for its participation in the congress. And the common refrain for non-payment of dues is funds crunch.

However, it’s expenditure spree for pre-poll publicity tells a different story. Ahead of the general election, the government has spent Rs 8 crore within three months to publicise various programmes.

The organisers are running from pillar to post to get their dues. “Due to non-payment of their participation fees, we are in an awkward position,” said joint secretary of the higher education department Ajoy Kumar Nayak.

The 99th National Science Congress, a prestigious event, had been organised for four days from January 3-7, 2012, here to showcase India’s talent and promote Odisha’s pride in the field of science and industrial development.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had inaugurated the event, while chief minister Naveen Patnaik had also graced the occasion. Several hundred scientists from across the country took part in it.

The organisers of the science congress are yet to receive money from the director of horticulture (Rs 1.36 lakh), commissioner of transport (Rs 3.40 lakh), secretary of housing board (Rs 1.51 lakh), director of National Rural Health Mission (Rs 1.36 lakh), Odisha State Handloom Weavers’ Society (Rs 6.70 lakh) and director of animal husbandry and veterinary services (Rs 10.92 lakh).

Dhamra port is one of the few private agencies, which are yet to pay their dues, despite several reminders. The port has to deposit Rs 1.51 lakh as participating fee in the science congress.

In a letter to the organisations, Nayak said: “As the above amount has not been deposited till now, authorities of the Indian Science Congress are keeping on reminding several times towards the payment.”

Nayak said vice-president of the congress Captain K.K. Uppal was reminding the department over telephone and through letters.

While the government departments are reluctant in releasing the money citing funds crunch, the state government has spent Rs 8 crore on publicity.

Activist Pradip Pradhan, who had obtained the information through the Rights to Information Act, said: “The BJD government issued the advertisement within three months from December 2013 to February 2014. Even a number of programmes such as Mamata Yojana, Madhubabu Pension Yojana and the rice at Re 1 scheme were advertised thrice in three months.”

The highest amount of Rs 69.36 lakh was spent on February 10 for an advertisement titled “Odisha Shows the Way” about the state government’s extraordinary achievements such as tackling Phailin. The next day, it spent another Rs 37.45 lakh on a campaign about cyclone shelters.

“The state government had released 66 advertisements to newspapers on various programmes,” said Pradhan.

Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena said: “The government misutilised the public fund for election propaganda.”

BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari said: “The BJD used the government machinery for its benefit to the full extent. They used money and muscle power to win elections. People have taken note of it and will certainly give a befitting reply.”

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