Ever had high tea for `1,200 and lunch at `3,500? Sounds outrageous, isn’t it? Now, what if the high tea is for 200 people and the lunch for 150. The bill will be a whopping `2.40 lakh and `5.25 lakh respectively; total `7.65 lakh.
And that is exactly how much the Union ministry of tourism had paid for its guests for just for a day during the recently held United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference on “Sustainable Tourism Development”. The expenditure for the three-day conference was a staggering `2.14 crore. This was revealed by an RTI enquiry filed by one Sai Prasad from the city. The expenditure on the meet, held from April 12-14 at the Park Hyatt and Taj Falaknuma hotels, has drawn criticism from social activists. It includes `1.25 lakh for three ‘recce visits’ to Hyderabad by a couple of persons.
The cost of “Branding at Hyderabad for UNWTO Meeting” raises even more eyebrows. The bill for outdoor branding alone was `25 lakh. Another `10 lakh was spent on ‘artwork, design, printing and mounting of flexis on hoarding’.
A sum of `9 lakh was spent on “small 3-4 feet replicas of different monuments for placing at the venue”. Finally, the total cost of branding was `44 lakh. Then come the phone calls, for which `4 lakh was paid! “This is really the height of wasting taxpayers money,” fumed Sai Prasad.
The entire expenses management was undertaken by Ashok Events, Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), which was appointed as the event manager on the basis of the MoU signed between the ministry of tourism and ITDC, the RTI said. “There are so many costs which seem frivolous and seem like inflated. Where is the need to spend `1,200 on high tea?” questions Prasad. As per the RTI, a mind-boggling `27.7 lakh was spent for one night--`5 lakh for dinner, `10 lakh for meals and transportation for artistes and `6 lakh for ambiance at Golconda Fort etc. “They say they have no money all the time. How are they able to spend so much then?” asks Prasad.