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Austerity Modi’s way: Rs.17 crore goes down the drain at washed out Varanasi event

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Varanasi:  As rains led to the cancellation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to his parliamentary constituency on Thursday, for the second time in the past one month, a staggering Rs.17 crore of the tax payer’s money also has gone down the drain. Literally!

If local district and protocol officials are to be believed, washed out trip has cost the exchequer more than Rs.17 crores. While VVIP visits do cost a fortune, the amount spent on Modi’s now-cancelled visit is stunning for more than one reason.

First, while this is in stark contrast to the austerity Modi often speaks of, secondly, if one breaks down the expense of the visit, which was to last four hours and 35 minutes, the per-minute expense was to be Rs 6.18 lakh and the per-second averaging Rs 10,333.

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With heavy rains ruining Modi’s programme on June 28, the organizers this time had done their homework well and six special ‘German Hanger’ like marquees were erected for the public rally at Dereka grounds. These gigantic marquees were both fire and water-proof and are estimated to have cost Rs 9 crore. Three air-conditioned mobile toilets were requisitioned from New Delhi for use of Modi and his entourage.

The organizers, on condition, of anonymity said that air-conditioners totaling 100 tonne were in place at Dereka, keeping in mind the humid and sultry weather. Ten special generators to provide 125 KVA electricity were also installed, adding a major expense to the budget. While the VVIP’s were to be provided AC’s to give them respite from the humid conditions, 100 coolers and 2,000 fans were in place for the public.

These generators, along with ten 6 KVA and two 5 KVA gensets would have produced 1.4 MW of electricity that, in ordinary conditions, could have powered more than 1,000 households, an official mused.

This apart, over Rs.4 crore rupees has been sent on boarding, lodging, transport and other expenses of the prime minister’s security and SPG detail.

A Wi-Fi enabled mini-PMO was also raised behind the hanger in which Modi was to be present during the launch of the developmental projects. Fifteen LED screens that would have telecast the prime minister’s address live to almost 20,000 people and a high- quality sound system at the rally venue also burnt a hole in the common man’s pocket. (IANS)

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Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Gets Reinstated

A spokesman for Wickremesinghe said he was expected to form a Cabinet in the coming days, with priority given to the 2019 budget

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Sri Lanka's ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe looks on during a parliament session in Colombo, Dec. 12, 2018. On Sunday he was reinstated as prime minister, ending a political crisis.

Sri Lanka’s sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated Sunday, his party said, ending a 51-day crisis that had paralyzed the island nation and pushed it toward debt default.

The 69-year-old leader was sworn in by President Maithripala Sirisena, who sacked him Oct. 26 and triggered a power struggle that brought the country’s government to a standstill.

Wickremesinghe had refused to step aside since being sacked and replaced by former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Power struggle won

Sri Lanka had drifted without a functioning government for nearly two months as the rival factions jostled for power in parliament and the courts.

Sri Lanka, Parliament, Prime minister
Supporters of ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe celebrate outside the supreme court complex in Colombo. VOA

Sirisena had vowed to never reappoint Wickremesinghe, who he publicly castigated in speeches in recent weeks, as prime minister under his watch.

The acrimony between the two was underscored Sunday when Sirisena barred journalists from attending the swearing-in ceremony, leaving it to Wickremesinghe’s legislators to announce the appointment.

“We thank the citizens of the country who fought the illegal seizure of power and ensured that democracy was restored,” his United National Party of Sri Lanka posted on Twitter

President’s appointee failed

Rajapaksa, Sirisena’s appointee, was unable to govern, failing many times to muster a majority in parliament.

Sri Lanka, prime minister
Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa gestures as he arrives for a meeting with his supporting lawmakers at the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 29, 2018. VOA

He was defeated six times on the floor of the legislature before being forced to step down Saturday.

Sirisena suffered a huge setback when the highest court in the country ruled last week that he acted outside the constitution when he sacked parliament in early November.

The court also confirmed Friday that Rajapaksa and his purported Cabinet could not exercise the powers of the office they held.

Also Read: President’s Dissolution of Parliament Unconstitutional: Sri Lanka’s Court

A spokesman for Wickremesinghe said he was expected to form a Cabinet in the coming days, with priority given to the 2019 budget, without which foreign debt servicing may not be possible.

Sri Lanka had been braced for a government shutdown as parliament failed to approve spending for 2019, and ratings agencies downgraded the country’s credit rating amid fears of a sovereign debt default. (VOA)