The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 4 , 2014
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Bling goes bust from gift bag for champs

The goody bag for the Knights of 2014 is plain vanilla compared with the bling that the 2012 champions were showered with.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s gifts to the 2014 Knights at the felicitation ceremony at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday cost a fraction of what the 2012 Knights got.

The players, support staff, officials and owners of KKR had to be content with a green uttariya, mangoes, a packet of sweets from Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick and a bell metal trophy as the government’s gift. Each of them was given suit material, a tie, cufflinks and a bottle of Ferrari perfume.

In 2012, the first time KKR lifted the IPL trophy, the city’s civic body had presented each of them a gold chain with a pendant. Besides, there were silk kurta-pyjama, sweets and an uttariya.

The gold chains with pendants cost Rs 65 lakh. Tuesday’s gifts cost the exchequer around Rs 6 lakh.

“We will give them love, smile, sweet and mangoes,” transport minister Madan Mitra said before the function started.

The gifts raised brows, though the government tried to keep them under wraps. “We didn’t think about what we gifted last time while deciding on the gift this year. We presented them with what we felt was appropriate,” said Atri Bhattacharya, secretary at the information and cultural affairs department.

A senior official said the chief minister had instructed that the gifts should not raise any “unnecessary controversy”.

“The government drew a lot of flak last time for presenting the team with gold chains. Many felt it was a waste of money. The chief minister told us to avoid attracting any criticism this time around.”

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) maintained its golden gift streak, giving the players a gold ring on Tuesday, though a gold chain with a locket was what it gave to each member of the team back in 2012.

Two years ago, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had asked a popular jewellery house to make the gold chains, weighing 50gm each.

Who footed the bill is still not clear.

CMC officials say they had forwarded the Rs 65-lakh tab to the government. Senior officials deny clearing such a bill.

A senior official said the government was not keen on indulging in any “wasteful expenditure” because the state has already borrowed Rs 3,600 crore in April and May, the first two months of this financial year.

The state was not in sound financial health in 2012 too. “There were companies from whom money could be had for buying gifts. Some of the companies have gone bust now,” the official said.