New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) More than Rs one crore of taxpayers’ money was spent and expensive gifts were distributed to woo Singaporean investors to Madhya Pradesh, but the Ministry of External Affairs is in the dark about the outcome from state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s much-hyped trip to Singapore last January.
While the norm is to submit a follow-up report after an official trip to a foreign country, a reply to an Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed that the MEA has not received any such document from the Madhya Pradesh government or from the Indian high commission in Singapore.
As per another set of documents made available in February to RTI activist Ajay Dubey, expenditure incurred on Chief Minister Chouhan’s official trip was to the tune of Rs 1.39 crore borne by the Madhya Pradesh Trade and Investment Facilitation Corporation Limited.
Added to that were gifts worth Rs 41,499 given away to potential investors based in Singapore.
According to another reply from the Madhya Pradesh Trade and Investment Facilitation Corporation Limited (TRIFAC), the gifts were sourced from Mrignayani Madhya Pradesh Emporium and MP Laghu Udyog Nigam Limited — both owned by the state government.
The list of gift items includes four saris worth Rs 22,291 and 20 statuettes of laughing Buddha worth Rs 11,718.
The government also purchased five shawls worth Rs 7,490 from Sant Ravidas MP Hastashilp Evam Hathkargha Vikas Nigam Ltd.
The purpose of the Singapore visit as stated in the proforma for political clearance was to attract investors to Madhya Pradesh in various sectors. Meetings and interactive sessions were reportedly held with potential investors in Singapore. These meetings were organised in coordination with the Indian high commission in Singapore and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
However, the documents and air tickets of the trip showed that Chief Minister Chouhan’s wife Sadhna Singh also travelled to Singapore with the delegation. It is not clear what was her exact role during the four-day visit between January 12 and 16, and who paid for her trip.
The ‘official’ delegation led by the Chief Minister comprised state Commerce Minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Commerce and Industry Secretary Mohammed Suleman, Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary S.K. Mishra, TRIFAC Managing Director D.P. Ahuja, Madhya Pradesh Audyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam Limited Managing Director J.N. Vyas and a representative of the Ernst and Young in Bhopal.
Incidentally, Chouhan had visited Japan and South Korea between September 29 and October 7, 2015. That trip had cost the exchequer Rs 1.39 crore, besides the gift items for leaders and investors on those countries.
(Sidhartha Dutta can be contacted at email@example.com)