State guesthouse used by CS’s wife, breaking rules

Sahyadri use is restricted to CM, ministers, top bureaucrats

Mumbai: On July 15, a certain Sweta Chatterji, who had attended a very nice party, posted a bunch of photos and message on her Facebook. “Saturday Saturday....Last Saturday the IASOWA July event was a demo on health food by ITC chef and his team, cooking contest by the inter-services officers and a surprise birthday celebration of Our IASOWA President Tanuja Mallick. Really a momentous event with a lavish spread of Lebanese to the contestant’s veg and non veg cuisine to Sahyadri’s hot samosas and moong dal shira. All those who attended kept on saying yeh dil maange mor from IASOWA”.

This would have been a perfectly normal post from a happy guest praising her hosts, except for the venue.

Sahyadri is the Maharashtra government’s guesthouse in Malabar Hill. And government rules bar any activity other than officials meetings and workshops from being held at the guesthouse; even these can only be scheduled by the senior-most elected officials (the chief minister, deputy chief minister, ministers and ministers of state) and the seniormost bureaucrats (the state’s chief secretary, additional chief secretary, secretaries and officials of similar rank). The Tanuja Mullick (as she spells it) mentioned is the wife of Sumit Mullick, Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary, and she is the president of the Indian Administrative Service Officers’ Wives Association (IASOWA). The rules do not permit events of this kind, and Ms. Mullick cannot technically book the guesthouse.

A reply to an RTI query by social activist Anil Galgali reveal that data on the bookings for Sahyadri show that Ms. Mullick has booked the conference hall four times for IASOWA meetings, on March 4, 2017 (₹6,150), April 18, 2017 (₹5,650), May 10, 2017 and May 20, 2017 and July 8, 2017. July 8 was the Saturday preceding July 15, the date of her post.

A July 24, 2015 order issued by the State General Administration Department (GAD) to all government departments including the Protocol Department, which is responsible for the guesthouse, said, “All departments are requested not to hold (public) hearings at the Sahyadri Guesthouse and follow the rules for holding meetings and workshops. The GAD has been informed that the conference halls are requisitioned by ministers for holding hearings with applicants with various issues.” The note went on to observe that people not concerned with the hearings were entering the guesthouse and staying back, resulting in ‘crowded situations prevailing.’ The note directed, “Do not organise hearings at the Sahyadri Guesthouse and also do not apply for reserving the conference hall for holding hearings. Henceforth only the CM, DCM, Ministers and Minister of State, Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary, Secretary and officials of equivalent rank would be authorized to hold meetings, workshops and press conferences.”

Mr. Galgali says that he has demanded an inquiry into the role of sanctioning officials from the Protocol Department for permitting the IASOWA activities. “How can the seniormost and most responsible State administrative official’s wife be bending the rules?” He adds the RTI reply showed that a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from south Mumbai, Raj Purohit, has also made use of the facility in violation of the specified rules.

Ms. Mullick did not respond to telephone calls. In response to a text message, she replied, “No comment.”

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 9:28:45 AM |

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