Shimla: Himachal Pradesh seems to be a favourite jaunt for judges, government officials and politicians when it comes to holidaying on govt money. The state government has hosted 272 ‘state guests’ in the last two years despite its poor financial condition.
‘As many as 272 dignitaries and the staff accompanying them were made state guests (entitled to free board and lodging and travel during their visits) from Jan 1, 2008, to Feb 2, 2010,’ Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said in a written reply to a question by Congress legislator Mukesh Agnihotri.
Out of these, judges, both serving and retired, of various high courts and the Supreme Court had been extended hospitality 65 times, according to Dhumal’s reply.
‘The prominent guests from judiciary were Justice V.K. Bali, chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal, and Justice D.K. Jain of the Supreme Court,’ he said.
Justice Bali was extended status of a state guest 10 times in this period.
‘Judges of the Allahabad High Court were also extended hospitality for four days from July 11, 2008, incurring an expenditure of Rs.1,24,482,’ Dhumal said.
Teams from the National Defence College and organisations like the Dental Council of India, the Medical Council of India and the site selection committee for Indian Institute of Technology have also availed the state’s hospitality.
‘A team of the National Defence College comprising 17 members enjoyed the state’s hospitality from Jan 31, 2008, to Feb 3, 2008, incurring an expenditure of Rs.1,47,099,’ said Dhumal.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani also enjoyed state guest status along with 21 other party leaders from Aug 18, 2009, to Aug 22, 2009. The leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha at that time, Advani enjoyed the hospitality when he was here to attend the BJP’s Chintan Baithak.
According to Dhumal’s reply, the cost of Advani’s five day stay was Rs.432,368.
Spiritual leaders Brahamrishi Kumar Swami and Anandmurti Guru Maa also enjoyed the state’s hospitality but the latter incurred the lowest expenditure – Rs.28 – on her stay.