Saturday, October 10, 2009

Who will pay for 100-strong President's retinue?

Who will pay for 100-strong President's retinue?
Times of  India

More than 100 persons form part of President Pratibha Patil's ongoing entourage during her visit to Saurashtra, straining the
Gujarat government, which is still not sure who would foot the bill for the army of relatives from Maharashtra who have trooped in to join the fun till Sunday.

Government guest houses and all other suitable accommodation has been booked for the VVIPs, including many from the Patil clan. The five day visit — the longest any President has stayed in Gujarat - includes visits to Somnath, Porbandar, Gir and Dwarka. The itinerary includes visits to temples, enjoying wildlife and paying obeisance at places linked to Mahatma Gandhi.

According to the information given by the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Gujarat government, 47 persons were to land in Ahmedabad on September 30. This apart, 45 persons were to join her from Jalgaon and another 25 persons from Bhusaval. Most of them travelled by train to join the President. Air-conditioned buses and cars were booked locally for them to be taken to different places.

An official, requesting anonymity, said: "There is lack of clarity on who will pay. The state protocol department was told to make arrangements, which it did promptly. So far, everything is running on credit. The President's officials are not telling us whether they will be paying for private individuals."

In Gir forest on Friday, a dozen cars took nearly 30 persons along with the President to lion safari. "The President spotted 23 lions at four different spots," said an official. While the government denied it, buffaloes were offered as bait to herd the lions. Later, a tribe of African descent settled in the Gir forests presented a dance for the visitors.

Chief minister Narendra Modi has accompanied the President for most of the visit. An official press release said it was Gujarat's honour that the President was spending five days in the state. It said Modi briefed her and her family about the developmental activities in the state.

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