AAP Govt. in Punjab splurges Rs 2 crore a day on adverts, top IAS official opts for transfer to avoid trouble

CHANDIGAR: While the AAP government of Punjab brazenly spends cash-strapped state funds on advertisements in all media houses across the country, in complete violation of official precedents, senior officials who handle this money fear having to face investigations later publish it.

A senior IAS officer, Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, the principal secretary of the information and public relations department, until recently “asked to be assigned” to another department as he was unwilling to issue unprecedented release orders for publishing and broadcasting government AAP announcements.

Refusing to comment on the reasons for his transfer, Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said: “It is a prerogative of the government to transfer an officer wherever they wish”.

But another IAS officer close to Gurkirat confirmed that the latter had asked the secretary general to transfer him from the public relations department because the issue of publicity could one day be investigated.

Chief Secretary VK Janjua said it was a routine transfer. When asked to clarify whether the public relations minister is required to give written orders to the secretary or the director to publish advertisements, Janjua said, “The public relations secretary can give you details.

However, Rahul Bhandari, Principal Public Relations Secretary, did not answer the question as he was reportedly busy in a meeting.

In fact, the problem is that while ordering officers to issue release orders for advertisements on different topics, the Minister of Public Relations, who now happens to be Aman Arora, does not issue any written orders.

The entire responsibility then rests with the secretary and the director of the public relations department and his subordinates concerned. They become solely responsible for the unprecedented acts of the government.

The AAP government spends an average of about Rs 2 crore per day on advertising. Bhagwant Mann was sworn in on March 16 this year, and his government has been in power for about 200 days (6.5 months) until September 30. According to the estimated average expenditure on advertising, the Mann government spent over 400 rupees. crores on advertising in 200 days of its governance.

The launch of the anti-corruption hotline phone number was advertised on TV channels at a total cost of Rs 14.50 crores, of which Rs 1.60 crores was given to Gujarat media and Rs 75 lakh of Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, money was also spent on print and social media advertisements.

The decision to compensate farmers who adopted direct seeding of paddy was announced at a price of Rs 3.82 crores.

Simplification of official procedures to do business with ease in the state has been announced at a cost of Rs 4.47 crores. In April, advertisements worth Rs 18 crore were published. From March 11, 2022 to May 10, an amount of Rs 55 crores was disbursed for the advertisement. These expenses do not include money wasted on ads on Google, Facebook, hosting flex-uni-polls, and video ads.

Interestingly, the Punjab government claimed that a sum of Rs 21 lakh from the public treasury was saved by bringing a paperless budget to the Assembly, but spent Rs 42 lakhs on its publicity!

Some vernacular newspapers regularly receive full-page color advertisements with photos of ministers to publicize government policies and achievements in a form that looks like real news. At the bottom of this paid news page, it is mentioned, in very small letters, that it is an “infomercial”.

According to documents obtained from time to time under the RTI Act by Manik Goyal, more than 400 satellite and YouTube channels and newspapers of almost all Indian languages ​​have benefited from government largesse.

Although payment of salaries to state government health workers and teachers has been repeatedly delayed due to lack of funds, this has not deterred AAP leaders from wasting money. money in advertisements.

Data collected also shows that the AAP government spent Rs 5.70 crore on Bhagwant Mann swearing-in ceremony held at Khatkar Kalan after mowing over 40 acres of standing crops. Farmers were to be compensated for destroyed crops in addition to expenses for pandal, seats and sound systems.

Goyal revealed that the Mann government was unwilling to provide the information requested under the RTI Act. Responses to RTI’s requests have been unduly delayed. One had no choice but to file appeals with the Information Commission to have instructions issued to provide accurate information. This was a long and costly process for the applicant.

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