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Shivraj Chouhan, aides spent 3 crores on US trip : RTI

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New Delhi :  An eight-member delegation led by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan spent close to Rs.3 crore ($465,000/$58,000 per head) on a five-day US trip in February, which included giving expensive gifts to investors, the reply to an RTI query has revealed.

The reply, received from the Madhya Pradesh Trade and Investment Facilitation Corporation Limited by whistle blower Ajay Dubey in July, revealed that on its visit to the US to meet American business leaders and potential investors, the delegation spent Rs.198,421 on gifts.

Shivraj_Singh_Chauhan_(cropped)

It also mentioned that 10 woollen shawls worth Rs.119,990 (Rs.11,999 each) were gifted to the guests, apart from ties and silver idols worth Rs.78,431. The visit was from January 31 to February 4 on the invitation of the US-India Business Council to meet business community leaders and investors.

The RTI reply also revealed that the expenditure for hotel rooms and air travel was Rs.30 lakh ($46,000) each ($5,750 per head), while Rs.25 lakh was spent on taxi rides, Rs.6 lakh went for daily perks and Rs.1.30 crore in rental for the ‘Friends of MP Conclave’ venue. Another Rs.75 lakh was spent on other promotional and miscellaneous charges. The total expenditure was Rs.2.96 crore over five days.

Among the others who accompanied the chief minister were Yashodhara Raje Scindia, the minister for commerce, industry and employment, Mohammed Suleman, principal secretary, department of commerce, industry & employment; S.K. Mishra, principal secretary to the chief minister; Vivek Aggarwal, secretary to the chief minister; Anupam Rajan, MD, of the MP Laghu Udyog Nigam Ltd. (MP Small Scale Industries Corporation); Manish Singh, MD, Madhya Pradesh Audyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam (Indore) Limited; and Devhuti Bakshi of Ernst & Young.

“The chief minister was planning another foreign tour to Sweden recently, but this was cancelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To spend almost Rs.3 crore on a five-day tour to the US is huge. It is a lot of money for a state like Madhya Pradesh. Moreover, making a foreign tour to meet potential investors when Vyapam scam was at its peak is not acceptable,” Dubey told media.

Madhya Pradesh has been mired in the Vyapam scam for years but the irregularities eventually came to light when 20 people were arrested in 2013 for impersonating candidates appearing for the 2009 medical entrance examination.
Forty-five people associated with the Vyapam scam have died – mostly unnaturally or under mysterious circumstances.
The CBI has already registered 67 FIRs and launched 12 preliminary inquiries into the Vyapam scam.

(IANS)

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US Military Planes Deliver Aid to Venezuela-Colombia Border

The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.

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US, colombia, venezuela, military
FILE - Demonstrators who are against the Venezuelan government chant outside of the Organization of American States during the special meeting of the Permanent Council, in Washington, April 3, 2017, to consider the recent events in Venezuela. VOA

More than 200 tons of US humanitarian aid intended for Venezuela is scheduled to begin arriving just across the border in Colombia Saturday, delivered by US military cargo planes.

The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.

The aid comes at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to ease shortages of food and other essentials in economically troubled Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said the aid is part of Washington’s political maneuvering to get him out of office, and he has blocked off a bridge needed to bring the supplies into Venezuela.

The United States said Maduro’s election was unfair and illegitimate, and U.S. officials and scores of other nations have recognized his rival, Guaido, as the country’s interim leader.

US, Colombia, Venezuela
Sacks containing humanitarian aid are pictured at a warehouse near the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Adding pressure

On Friday, Washington added to the political pressure on Maduro by sanctioning the head of Venezuela’s oil company as well as top intelligence officials.

Earlier Friday, Guiado’s representatives collected aid pledges from many nations at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, where 25 countries promised more than $100 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

“We came to ask for the solidarity of the governments of the world,” said Lester Toledo, coordinator for international help for Venezuela. “We appreciate the diplomatic gestures. We appreciate the letters and the recognition of President Guaidó. But we ask for help, to make the humanitarian aid a reality. That all donations can let us purchase medical supplies that we really need.”

Venezuela, US, Colombia
If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said. Pixabay

Distributing the aid

U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo said Guaidó has a plan.

“I believe that President Guaidó has done everything possible to make Maduro accept the humanitarian aid. Maduro has no argument, the person sitting in power doesn’t let the humanitarian aid reach his people who are dying of hunger,” Trujillo said.

Guaido said the aid will be brought into Venezuela Feb. 23.

Maduro, however, said the aid will not be brought into his nation, and he blames U.S. economic sanctions for Venezuela’s problems.

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“They’re putting pressure on Venezuela’s banks, which are in charge of purchasing and bringing the food and supplies. The White House is pressuring so that none of our bank accounts work. They have frozen billions of dollars that could otherwise buy food and medicine,” he claimed.

If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said.

“We have the necessary experience, we know it is a very complex issue, but we will do our best to coordinate the distribution and organization of this humanitarian aid,” he said. (VOA)