Ever had a cup of tea for Rs 1,200 and lunch at Rs 3,500 per head? Sounds outrageous? Now, simply multiply the cost of one tea by 200 cups, and lunch by 150 people, and you will land up with a whopping bill of Rs 2.4 lakh and Rs 5.25 lakh respectively. That is exactly how much the Ministry of Tourism, under Union Minister of State Chiranjeevi, paid for its guests for just a day during the recently held United Nations World Tourism Organisation conference on Sustainable Tourism Development. And if you’re wondering how much the entire expense of the conference was — it was a staggering Rs 2.14 crore for three days. This was revealed by an RTI enquiry filed by city-based activist Sai Prasad.
The details of the expenditure incurred during the three day conference, held from April 12 to 14, at the Park Hyatt and Taj Falaknuma hotels, also reveal various other expenses which seem outlandish, and has drawn criticism from activists. Take for instance the expenditure mentioned under the header ‘Recce visits for UNWTO meeting at Hyderabad’, which costs Rs 1.25 lakh alone. The RTI reply says only one or two people made all three visits.
The next expense under ‘Branding at Hyderabad for UNWTO Meeting’ raises even more eyebrows. The RTI shows that a staggering Rs 25 lakh was spent only on ‘outdoor branding’, the only explanation for which is given as ‘Airport to city, other important places in city and road leading to hotels and dinner venues’. Another Rs 10 lakh was spent only on ‘Artwork for branding (creative designing), printing and mounting of flex on hoarding of sites’.
The entire management of the expenses was undertaken by M/S Ashok Events, Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), which was appointed event manager as per an MoU signed between the Ministry of Tourism and ITDC, the RTI said. “There are so many costs which seem frivolous, and seem like they have been inflated. What is the need to spend Rs 1,200 on one cup of high tea,” question Prasad.