Austerity? Four brand new cars for Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s escort

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The home department has ordered purchase of four new vehicles — three Innova Crysta and one Tata Harrier, all black in colour — at Rs 62.46 lakh for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s escort and pilot duty, in violation of an embargo on buying new vehicles for government departments applicable till November 5.These vehicles will replace two Innova Crysta with registration numbers KL 01 CD 4857 and KL 01 CD 4764. Going by the registration numbers, the vehicles that are being replaced have been on the road for only three years.The order says they will be handed over to the home department. It also says the vehicles are purchased on recommendation of the police department and the proposal has been considered as a “special case”.A finance department order for fiscal consolidation on November 5, 2020 in the wake of Covid-19 had said that purchase of vehicles will not be allowed for the next one year.Tourism dept had purchased 37 vehiclesThe Sunil Mani commission, set up for ascertaining the financial situation of the state, had also given several recommendations for cutting wasteful expenditure. “Purchase of new vehicles should be limited to enforcement departments such as revenue, police, excise, forest, fire force etc. A complete database of all vehicles being used by government departments, both owned and hired, needs to be prepared so that the size of the problem can be understood and addressed,” it said.The government had considered the commission recommendations also while finalising the austerity measures. The purchase of vehicles by the police department had invited criticism on several occasions, with the latest one coming from the comptroller and auditor general (C&AG).Interestingly, when the government chose to bypass its own decision for purchase of vehicles for the chief minister’s security, there were also occasions when departments decided to implement the austerity measures in letter and spirit. In 2018, the law department had turned down a proposal for purchase of a new vehicle for the state human rights commission chairman in view of similar austerity guidelines.The tourism department, which allots vehicles for travel of ministers and senior officials, had purchased 37 vehicles at Rs 7.12 crore during the previous government’s tenure.

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