Chennai: Some of the ‘old bandicoots’ at the Raj Bhavan here are cribbing, even complaining openly at times. Governor Banwarilal Purohit is a ‘miser’ and a ‘mean’ one at that, they insist. Their problem: Ever since he took charge on 6 October last year, he has been on a fierce mission to cut down expenses at the Raj Bhavan here-be it the power bills, food expenses or travel costs. He himself flies ‘economy’ for official engagements in Delhi or elsewhere and takes the First Class in train for the district tours, rather than the ‘customary’ air-conditioned coupe assigned by the railways for his predecessors, say Raj Bhavan insiders.
“In fact, the predecessors had frequently used helicopters for traveling to the districts and the Raj Bhavan picked up those bills, but this Governor has never used a chopper so far for his district tours”, said an official requesting anonymity.
“A good many of us here are happy at this austerity and transparency in all the activities. Only a few may be having problems because they have been used to easy ways in the past, and benefited from that”, said another senior staffer, adding that some of the ‘bandicoots’ have been transferred out and fresh hands injected in the ‘clean-up’ process.
Sources said one of the very first instructions that came from Governor Purohit to his bewildered staff was to stop using bottled mineral water, of which the Raj Bhavan would consume truckloads every month. “He got our own RO water plants installed for use in the kitchen and for drinking purposes. Even he and his family drink only this RO water. The bottled mineral water is used very rarely, only for the VVIPs coming from Delhi”, said a source.
And here is the biggest of all shockers in the long list of Governor Purohit's ‘miser’ scorecard-while great food was available aplenty and came mostly free of cost for not just the ‘boss’ in the Raj Bhavan and his privileged family and guests, Governor Purohit has introduced a ‘token’ system. The breakfast token costs `50 each and a token for lunch/dinner `80.
“Even the Governor buys tokens for his food and for his family. All of us must buy our tokens. Only the VIPs staying at the Raj Bhavan are served food free”, said a source, adding, “He insists that we switch off the lights and fans when we leave. He got the air-conditioners disconnected in rooms not in use. He keeps telling us we are spending public money and we must be accountable”.
While the electricity and food bills have consequently dropped drastically, the Raj Bhavan establishment charges have got terribly lean these past eight months. “The Governor's establishment expenditure was `1.33 crore during 2015-16 and went up to `1.43 crore the following year. In fact, Raj Bhavan had spent `1.68 crore just in the six months during April-September last year”, said an officer. And after a pause, he added: “Now hold your breath, the Raj Bhavan spent just `30 lakh during the priod from October last year till the end of this March”.
Governor Purohit has not just been obsessed only with his books of account, switching off fans and air-conditioners and selling food tokens. The 78-year-old farmer-politician-journalist is also a great humanist, and a delightful humourist, insist his staffers.
Predecessor C. Vidyasagar Rao had thrown open the Raj Bhavan to the public but allowed only one slot for the visitors during 1630-1730 hours in the day. The present Governor has stretched this to two slots of an hour each. Visitors are charged `25 per head after online booking, and are taken around the huge Raj Bhavan area, which includes the exotic Guindy reserve forest in battery-driven vans; besides strolling through the guided tours of the VVIP stay areas and the Durbar Hall. Each participant is served snacks but more importantly, a signed certificate of attendance from the hands of the Governor himself to preserve as remembrance of the wonderful trip to the abode of the First Citizen of the State.
“The Governor has also given instructions that should anyone drop out after the online booking and payment, we must quickly phone up the nearest Corporation/Governor school and ask the teachers to send us deserving students for a free trip inside the Raj Bhavan”, said a happy staffer....