Former union power secretary and noted environmentalist Dr EAS Sarma asked should the people of the state bear the expenditure of Governor’s family members’ helicopter trip to Rajahmundry?
In a letter written to the state government he objected to the ferrying of family members of Governor to Rajahmundry to take a holy dip in river Godavari by helicopter at the expense of taxpayers’ money.
“The family members of the Governor are not public functionaries and they cannot get paid out of the public exchequer. There should be public accountability in such matters. The tax-payer of the State cannot be forced to pay for the VIPs to earn “punyam”for themselves! ,” he said in the letter addressed to IYR Krishna Rao, chief secretary of the state. “I understand that the governor, with a few of his family members, used a helicopter to fly to Rajahmundry for this visit. Who pays for such purely personal visits” he asked.
The role of the Governor in a State, Dr Sarma said, was well defined and limited and he or she could not assume roles that were not intended to in the Constitution.
Dr Sarma was equally critical of the visits and long presence of VVIPs at Rajahmundry including the omnipresent chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
“Had the CM and his family displayed even a semblance of sensitivity to the plight of the pilgrims, the tragedy in which more than 30 persons (including children) had lost their lives, would not have taken place.
The former bureaucrat said the presence of even one VIP was sufficient to upset the security arrangements, the traffic and the utility services which otherwise would have been available to the million-odd pilgrims visiting Rajahmundry for the Pushkarams.
“What has been reported indicates that, despite the unpardonable happenings that led to one of the biggest stampedes in AP, self-styled VIPs continue to troop into Rajahmundry, accompanied by their families and entourage, as though the State exchequer is always there to meet their private expenses and the pilgrims should fend for themselves,” he said in the letter.
Pointing at the long queues of pilgrims lining up to as far as Tuni on the north and Eluru on the south, waiting to reach Rajahmundry to have a holy dip in the river, Sarma said this was unprecedented.
“In the normal course, any responsible government would have banned the entry of any self-styled VIP unless he or she is prepared to stand in the queue, be treated like anyone else and go through the ordeal of taking part in the Pushkarams. Unfortunately, the present government does not appear to have any sense of responsibility whatsoever,” he said.
He wondered how the Governor had chosen to visit Rajahmundry with his family and take a dip in a specially designated “VIP” ghat despite the stampede that took place and the innocent lives lost.
“In a democracy like ours, does it not evoke a sense of disgust to recognize a few as VIPs and permit them to occupy more public space than what is due to them, at the expense of the public?,” he said.
He said a time had come when VIPs who cause not only public inconvenience but also a threat to the public security were held fully responsible and brought to book. He even opposed to government’s organization of high-level team from Singapore that visited Rajahmundry in the midst of this chaos. I am sure that the team’s visit had further added to the travails of the pilgrims.