The ‘Deepotsava’ at Ayodhya, the annual jamboree sponsored by the Uttar Pradesh government on Diwali, cost the state government a sum of ₹133 crore this year.
Now, let’s look at some facts. The Uttar Pradesh government has been busy curtailing funds for several other projects.
• Last week, the UP government decided to curtail duties and number of Home Guard jawans because it did not have enough money to pay them, it was claimed.
• The UP government has also decided to close down Uttar Pradesh Karmachari Kalyan Nigam because the employees have not received salary for the past 11 months. At a cabinet meeting early this week Yogi government constituted a three-member committee to recommend on whether to give VRS to employees or accommodate them in other departments.
• The paramedic staff including Non-Medical Assistants have not got salary for the last three months as the UP health department says it does not have money to pay the staff.
• School students of class VI to VIII are yet to receive their textbooks because the Basic Education Department has no money to print them.
In the last review meeting of the finance department, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was informed that the Uttar Pradesh government is passing through a severe cash crunch. The tax collection was poor. The excise and GST had failed to provide the desired impetus to the state’s revenue collection. The CM thereafter advised departments to opt for austerity.
‘Austerity’ means a the three-day extravaganza at Ayodhya costing ₹133 crore !
A Superintendent Engineer (SE) in PWD quipped that with this money a 133 km long road could be constructed but this money would be used to light lamps, decorate the city and for helicopter rides for actors enacting the roles of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and shower flower petals on them as they emerge from the helicopter. .
“The Chief Minister has money to spare for payment to the temples and mutts but has no money for development,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
This year the government has given Deepotasava a status of a state government function. Last year ₹24.27 crore was spent but this time the budget allocation is said to have gone up to Rs 133 crore.
Ayodhya is said to have made it to the Guinness World Record as 5.51 lakh earthen lamps lit up the banks of river Sarayu as part of the Diwali celebrations.
Anuj Jha, District Magistrate of Ayodhya, informed that as many as four lakh diyas will be lit up Ram Ki Pauri while 1.50 lakh will be lit up in the city. Over 6000 volunteers, a majority of them college students, have been engaged to ensure that the lamps remain lit for the prescribed period of time.
“If the Chief Minister is serious about putting Ayodhya on a global map, he should improve the infrastructure here. Build roads, improve drainage and provide quality power supply to the city,” Sudhir Sharma, a post-graduate student from Saket University said.
“If tourists start coming here, the local economy will improve. Theatrics like Deepotasava will not help the common man here,” he added, summing up the sentiment of a large section of people.
Inputs from B. Bannerjea