Mumbai(dna): It's not just the solicitor's fee, every single penny being spent by the state government on purchase of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's London house is coming at the cost of Dalit welfare, dna has learnt.
The 2,050sqft three-storey bungalow, where Ambedkar stayed for a brief period in 1920-21while studying in the London School of Economics, is coming at a cost of Rs40 crore and the entire amount is being drawn from the funds of Mahatma Phule Magasvargiya Vikas Mahamandal (roughly translated as Mahatma Phule Backward Class Development Corporation) which is meant for financial assistance of below-poverty-line OBCs, SCs and neo-Buddhists.
Social justice minister Rajkumar Badole confirmed the development. "It's true that Rs40 crore is being taken from the corporation for the London bungalow, but we will reimburse it later," he told dna.
A GR in this regard is expected soon. The state is expecting to get registry done by month-end.
Though Badole seeks to insist that the government has taken the money as a "loan" from the Mahamandal, he added, "Mahamandal's fund is also government's money." This implies that the fund transfer is just an "internal arrangement" which might not need a repayment.
The move highlights how a hand-to-mouth government is patronising tokenism even as a large proportion of the Dalit population in Maharashtra is still living below the poverty line. According to highly placed sources in the BJP, with the Ambedkar's bungalow, the government aims to woo the Dalit voters in state as it prepares to go to local body polls in a few months.
dna was the first to report in its February 20 edition that the government has withdrawn Rs3.1 crore to pay London-based Simon Ross from Seddons Solicitors. Badole had then clarified that no more money would be taken from the Mahamandal and even the Rs3.1crore would be reimbursed after the budget.
That didn't happen. The government didn't allocate any funds for the London house purchase in 2015-16 budget.
Meanwhile, at the end of April Badole, his deputy Dinesh Kamble and department's secretary Ujjwal Uke had gone to London to finalise the deal for which Rs20 lakh was again withdrawn from the Mahamandal.
The functioning of Mahamandal is questionable
The Magasvargiya Vikas Mahamandal is a state-owned corporation constituted in 1978. The corporation's objective is to help scheduled castes and OBCs by offering training and financial assistance to help them get self-employed. The corporation receives about Rs200 crore a year from the Centre and the state in a 49:51 ratio.
The Mahamandal is a cash-rich body, enjoying more than Rs611 crore of capital. Though it's entrusted with imparting training and financial assistance to poor OBCs, SCs and neo-buddhists, beneficiaries in 2014-15 were just 3,450 people, who took Rs19.4 crore loan for starting business.
The population of SC and OBCs in the state is over 4.5 crore and 50% of them are supposed to be in the BPL category.
The loan recovery of the Mahamandal is just 4.5%, probably the lowest across the country, which exposes the efficiency and work system at the office.