Railways spending big on PM’s selfie booths: RTI reply; brazen waste of money, says Opposition

While Central Railway has shared the expenditure incurred on such booths, the Northern, Southern and Western Railways have not revealed the numbers

December 26, 2023 09:00 pm | Updated December 27, 2023 12:17 am IST - New Delhi

A Prime Minister Narendra Modi selfie point installed at CSMT Railway Station suburban concourse. Photo: X/@Central_Railway

A Prime Minister Narendra Modi selfie point installed at CSMT Railway Station suburban concourse. Photo: X/@Central_Railway

The Centre is spending up to ₹6.25 lakh on every permanent 3D selfie booth with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image in railway stations, according to a reply obtained from Central Railway on a Right to Information (RTI) application. The cost incurred on each temporary selfie booth is ₹1.25 lakh.

In reply to a query filed under the RTI by a retired railway official, Ajay Bose, Central Railway deputy general manager Abhay Mishra has said that it had installed or erected Mr. Modi’s 3D selfie booths across 50 railway stations in five divisions - Mumbai, Bhusaval, Nagpur, Pune and Solapur. 

Thirty Category A stations, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Kalyan, Nagpur, Betul, will have temporary installations, while 20 Category C stations such as Karjat, Kasara, Latur, Kopargaon have permanent installations. 

The RTI reply further states that the Central Bureau of Communication functioning under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has approved L1 rates for 3D selfie/photo booths at ₹1.25 lakh for each Category A station’s temporary installation and ₹6.25 lakh for each Category C station’s permanent installation. This rate is exclusive of taxes, the RTI reply states.

This takes the total expenditure to ₹1.62 crore on temporary/ permanent photo booths in Central Railway.  Of this, up to ₹1.25 crore is for permanent photo booths and ₹37.5 lakh for setting up temporary ones. 

Northern Railway, in reply to another RTI query, has said that PM’s selfie photo booths will be installed at 100 different points across railway stations, with some stations having more than one booth. For instance, Dehradun, Ambala, New Delhi, Amritsar, Ayodhya, Chandigarh have three booth installations in each station. 

“While the Chief Public Relations Officer of Northern Railway has said that contract work has been allotted equally among eight empanelled agencies with Northern Railway, the officials have refused to divulge the name of the agencies to which the work has been contracted out or the total expenditure,” Mr. Bose, also an RTI activist, told The Hindu. 

Mr. Bose added that information about total expenditure and the names of the agencies empanelled have not been revealed by the the Northern, Southern or Western Railway. 

Southern Railway’s Tiruchchirappalli division replied to the RTI query stating that PM’s 3D selfie photo booths will be set up in 11 stations of the division, including Tiruchchirappalli Junction, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur Junction and Vellore Cantonment. “Only one of the six divisions in Southern Railway replied to the RTI query,” Mr. Bose said. 

In Western Railway too, only one of the five divisions – Bhavnagar– responded to the RTI query. “As of December 4, selfie points have been installed at five stations – Veraval, Bhavnagar Terminus, Botad, Dhandhuka and Gandhigram of the Western Railway Bhavnagar division,” the reply stated. 

Election stunt: Kharge

Opposition leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor of the Congress and Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena took to X to criticise the Centre’s expenditure on PM’s selfie booths. 

“Not a single day goes without someone sharing their ghastly experience while travelling in trains. People are paying more for services even though services are going down the drain… spending crores over selfie points than better facilities. Shame on Central Railway,” Ms. Chaturvedi said on X. 

Mr. Kharge stated on X, “Absolutely brazen waste of taxpayer’s money by installing Modiji’s 3D selfie points at railway stations. Modi government has not provided drought and flood relief to States. MGNREGA funds for Opposition-ruled States are also pending, but it has the audacity to generously splurge public money on these cheap election stunts.”

Criticising the “blatant misuse” of government funds, Mr. Tharoor posted on X: “The shameless self promotion of the PM and the ruling party at the expense of the honest taxpayer is such a blatant misuse of government resources that, in any other democracy, would be condemned and lead to a taxpayer revolt. In India, we are unfortunately inured to indulging the capricious whims and fancies of our rulers.”

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