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Flood-ravaged Uttarakhand spent crores on advertisements after tragedy, reveals RTI

Author: Ketki Angre
Publication: NDTV.com
Date: October 9, 2013
URL: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/flood-ravaged-uttarakhand-spent-crores-on-advertisements-after-tragedy-reveals-rti-429610?pfrom=home-lateststories

Uttarakhand, devastated by massive floods and landslides that left over 1,000 dead and thousands homeless in June this year, spent over 22 crores on advertisements in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Details from a Right To Information application reveal that the state government spent crores on advertising in the last four months, to bolster the image of the hill state and announce the revival of yatras that had been suspended due to floods.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, a number of ads were put out for missing persons and information on helpline numbers.

The state government spent Rs. 10 crore on grabbing television spots and another Rs. 1.27 crore on radio jingles. Also, Rs. 1.6 crore was spent just on an ad when the Kedarnath puja restarted last month. Similarly, Rs. 56 lakh were spent on an ad on Hemkund Sahib and Rs. 78 lakh on a Yamunotri advertisement.

Gurvinder Singh Chaddha, who obtained the information under RTI, feels the state government could have used the money far more constructively by investing it in rebuilding activities in the state.

The Uttarakhand government, however, defends the spending, saying the ads were the need of the hour.

"You know a post-disaster situation has been created... places like Nainital, Mussourie, Haridwar where disaster had not taken place were affected. People were not coming. So the government has to invite tourists and tell them that there are safe places you can come here and when we are resuming the yatra," said R M Sundaram, Director General of Information for the Uttarakhand government.

The government also says that this expenditure is well within their Rs. 37-crore budget and doesn't infringe on the relief funds. Relief and rehabilitation has a separate corpus of Rs. 13,000 crore, the government says.

Some in the state, who are still struggling to put their lives back together, feel this was an unnecessary expenditure. On the other hand, the government says tourism is the lifeblood of the state and that too needs to be put back on its feet.
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