A reportedly cash-strapped Maharashtra government has cleared the purchase of six luxury cars for ministers, deputies and senior officials of the sports and education departments at a total cost of Rs 1.37 crore.
Each car costs Rs 22.8 lakh and the purchase has been cleared by the finance department and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
This comes two days after Vijay Wadettiwar, a cabinet minister in charge of relief and rehabilitation, said the state would have to take out a loan to pay the salaries of government employees.
“Situation of the state is such that we will have to take a loan to pay salaries of government employees next month. Except for 3-4 departments, expenses have been cut,” he said this week.
Mr Wadettiwar blamed the centre for the lack of funds but also said “there is no cash crunch for handling COVID-19 in the state”.
Maharashtra has reported a revenue loss of around Rs 50,000 crore over the past four months due to the coronavirus lockdown.
In March the government said senior officials, including ministers and other elected representatives, would be paid only 40 per cent of their salary, with the rest due over two instalments.
The state government’s decision to spend Rs 1.37 crore on luxury cars at this sensitive time has been criticised by the opposition BJP.
“This Maharashtra government hasn’t supported their people. They haven’t protected the police, who are frontline warriors and they can’t pay the salaries of their employees. But they have money to buy luxury cars for their ministers,” the BJP’s Ram Kadam said.
“We request the government to return wage cuts and provide an economic package,” he added.
Maharashtra, which makes the highest industrial contribution to the country, has been struggling since lockdown was imposed.
However, Chief Minister Thackeray’s government is set to sign 12 contracts with foreign firms worth a total of Rs 16,000 crore, in a bid to jump-start the state economy.
Maharashtra is also the state worst-affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, with 1.93 lakh confirmed cases, including 8,376 deaths.
With input from ANI