As reported by Viju B of TNN on timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 22 April 2008:
CM's relief fund used for recreation-Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India
CM's relief fund used for recreation
MUMBAI: Successive governments in the last decade have disbursed crores of rupees from the CM's Relief Fund for non-calamity-related reasons, a reply under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed. The CM's Relief Fund was set up in 1967, with the primary intention of providing relief during calamities.
The fund, like the PM's Relief Fund, gets generous contributions from individuals and institutions across the country, especially during disasters and war.
TOI had in its March 15 edition reported in detail how crores of rupees were disbursed from the CM's Relief Fund from 2003 to 2005 for trivial reasons like kabaddi competition, women's football matches and ghazal contests. Now, details of the fund in 1996-97 (Sena-BJP rule) and 2006-07 (Congress regime) have revealed a mixed bag of disbursals.
In 1996-97, Rs 4.12 crore was given to various institutions and individuals, out of which Rs 3.28 crore was given to recipients who got over Rs 50,000 each. In 2006-07, Rs 15.98 crore was given to various institutions and individuals, of which Rs 12.95 crore was given to recipients who got over Rs 50,000 each.
“A cursory look at the two lists reveals that in both these years crores of of rupees were being disbursed for events that were in no way related to calamities,'' said RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, who filed the query.
For instance, the Maharasahtra Rajya Kustigir Parishad wrestling conference and competition received Rs 2 lakh, the Jagatik Marathi Parishad Conference held in Jerusalem received Rs 10 lakh and the Umesh Shenoy ticket exhibition in Atlanta received Rs 51,000. For a foreign trip to New Zealand, the Beed-based Bhagwan Raosaheb Lomte received Rs 1 lakh. During 2006-07, the CM's Relief Fund gave Rs 1 lakh to Ramdas Padhye for participating in a puppet festival in Czechoslovakia and Rs 5 lakh for the Ishwardas Chunilal Yogic Health Center's international conference.
Meanwhile, the CM's Office held that relief funds can be given to institutions and individuals from different walks of life. “The 2001 government resolution clearly states that funds can be disbursed to cultural, social and educational initiatives and institutions. There is nothing unlawful in the disbursal of funds. Each case has been given on merit and after careful scrutiny by the chief minister himself,'' a senior official with the CMO said.
The CMO stated that in 2006-07, for instance, Rs 2.8 crore was disbursed to 3,708 individuals who needed urgent medical care. In the last three months alone, Rs 3.06 crore was given to 3,751 people.
In 2006-07, Rs 1 crore was given for victims of the bomb blasts and “riots,'' the CMO official said, without specifying what the ‘riots' were. Rs 1.6 crore was given for socially underprivileged people, Rs 65 lakh was given to poor students, Rs 19 lakh to economically backward sportsmen, Rs 3.5 lakh for cultural conferences and Rs 17 crore for assistance following farmer suicides, he added.
But Gandhi said, “The word ‘relief' in the CM's Relief Fund clearly means it is for urgent relief. The fund attracts exemptions under income-tax because the money must be given for calamity-related public causes.''