‘No amount can be released after March 5’

In what could be a brazen violation of the model code of conduct, the Jammu and Kashmir government has released a windfall of advertisement and publicity funds days after the Lok Sabha elections were announced on March 5.

The official documents in possession of The Hindu show that the Director of Information released Rs. 1.55 crore ( vide Order No: INF/487/2014 dated 07-03-2014), in addition to the approved plan outlay of Rs. 6 crore, to the Joint Directors of the Kashmir and Jammu divisions under the subhead ‘Plan Advertisement.’

The Director of Information also released Rs. 7.20 crore ( vide Order No: INF/488/2014 dated 10-03-2014) under the detailed head ‘498-Advertisement and Publicity’ and the major head ‘Information and Publicity (Non-Plan) for the year 2013-14.’ Both the special additional allotments were placed at the disposal of the Drawing and Disbursing Officers for disbursement with immediate effect.

With the two extraordinary allotments, the Information Department’s advertisement spending, which was less than Rs. 6 crore a year until last year, has tripled to Rs. 18 crore in violation of the annual budget and plan.

Sources in the Finance Department said Rs. 18 crore was in addition to the money spent on publicity and advertisement by over a dozen government undertakings and State-run companies and Corporations without the Information Department’s knowledge and approval.

The Department of Tourism, six universities, SKIMS hospital and Municipal Corporations of Jammu and Srinagar, known for losing huge amounts of revenue on account of “complementary” hoardings of Ministers and other politicians, have emerged as the major defaulters of a government circular. The government has been permissive of this violation.

Two Returning Officers told The Hindu that no amount could be released on account of advertisement and publicity after March 5.