The Kerala government has been caught on a sticky wicket after details of what appeared to be lavish arrangements for delegates at the Loka Kerala Sabha came out especially at a time when the state has been passing through a severe economic crisis. The second edition of the program, touted as a platform to engage non-resident Keralites in the development of the state, was conducted from January 1-3, 2020 in which over 350 delegates from 47 countries took part.
Figures of government expenditure on the event show that over Rs 60 lakh was spent only on arranging food including breakfast, lunch and dinner for the delegates at the three-day event. The food was sourced from a five-star hotel. While lunch for each delegate was priced at Rs 2000 per plate, dinner plates amounted to Rs 1800 each and breakfast at Rs 550 each.
Further, the government spent Rs 23.4 lakh on accommodation of the delegates, mostly in five-star hotels in Thiruvananthapuram. Government attendees at the event included MLAs, MPs and officers of the state government. The event was boycotted by Opposition UDF MLAs and MPs who insinuated that the event was nothing but splurge of taxpayer funds.
In the wake of the reports of the splurge, noted entrepreneur Sohan Roy, who was a special invitee at the Loka Kerala Sabha, wrote on Facebook offering to pay up for his share of food at the function.
“When I arrived as a special invitee at the Loka Kerala Sabha, considering the government’s financial difficulties, I had politely refused the five-star accommodation offered to me. When the get-together inside the state Assembly building on the first night got late, I ate the food there itself. I thought someone may have sponsored the food. Even if it was not, there are many catering agencies in Kerala which supply food for less than Rs 500 a plate. If I had known it would cost thousands of rupees, I would have declined,” wrote Roy in his Facebook post, originally in Malayalam. Roy is the CEO of the Aries Group, based in Dubai.
“Since what I ate cannot be returned, I wish to pay Rs 2500 towards the government coffers to negate the taxpayer losses. If the money cannot be returned, I will be depositing it in the chief minister’s disaster relief fund,” he wrote.
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