New Delhi: Delhi’s ruling AAP on Tuesday complained to Home Minister Rajnath Singh against the abrupt transfer by his ministry of Delhi’s VAT commissioner who they said had busted a hawala racket.
A delegation of Aam Aadmi Party leaders made the complaint at a meeting with Rajnath Singh, saying the home ministry did not even consult the Delhi government before shunting out the official.
Calling it a “serious matter”, AAP leader Ashutosh said “an honest officer who busted a hawala racket … was transferred without consultation (with our government)”.
Ashutosh was accompanied by his colleagues Sanjay Singh and Dilip Pandey.
Value Added Tax Commissioner Vijay Kumar and three other officers of the Delhi government were transferred by Delhi’s Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on the directions of the home ministry, the AAP said.
“Kumar had tightened the noose around big, influential people who indulged in tax evasion in the national capital. There are great chances that Kumar was removed by the central government under pressure from some big lobby,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had earlier said.
The AAP leaders submitted a memorandum to Rajnath Singh saying the transfer was a “serious matter of corruption and violation of all existing government norms and rules”.
They sought the minister’s immediate intervention.
Pandey later said that the home minister promised to look into the matter.
“Rajnath told us that even the home ministry was not taken into confidence before Kumar’s transfer.”
Later, the AAP leaders also met Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) chief MK Meena and demanded “a thorough and impartial probe into this extremely serious matter which involves corruption”.
The AAP leaders said the VAT department of Delhi had unearthed a major hawala racket by raiding several premises in Delhi.
It was found out that more than 200 companies were being run from a room and a known hawala operator, Naresh Jain, was behind it.
“Before the operator could be nailed, Lt Governor Najeeb Jung abruptly transferred and relieved the VAT Commissioner, flouting all rules and norms.
“The AAP feels it was done to scuttle the probe into the hawala racket.”
A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016
The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016
The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.
In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.
The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.
For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.
In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.
The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.
But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.
For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.
A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.
Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).
The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.
Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.
Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.
BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)