Inviting actress Aishwarya Rai to the World Kannada Meet in Belgaum last year left the department of Kannada and Culture poorer by Rs 10 lakh or so its records claim. The money was apparently spent on the chartered flight by which the actress arrived in the evening from Mumbai on the inaugural day of the meet and returned by a few hours later.
The department, which has run up a shocking bill for organising the World Kannada Meet, says it spent a whopping RS 7.96 crore on the entertainment programmes alone and claims a small book exhibition organised as part of the event cost it Rs 60 lakh! RTI activist Bheemappa Gadad, who has obtained details of government spending on the meet under the Right to Information Act, says the officials of the Kannada and Culture department were extremely generous in spending public money even on the allowances paid to artistes who participated in the meet. Their bill ? A massive Rs 2.77 crore. While the Lahari Recording company was reportedly paid Rs 25 lakh for merely producing a CD of the Kannada song ‘Hachevu Kannadada Deepa,’ artiste Nirupama Rajendra received Rs 7 lakh, a Mumbai troupe headed by Vijay Prakash ad Shivamani was paid Rs 9 lakh, the Balamurali and Suma Sudheendra troupe, Rs 6 lakh and Ranimachayya of Madikeri, Rs 3.07 lakh, the department claims.

As much as Rs 25 lakh was supposedly given to the Nataka Academy , but there is no mention about the kind of entertainment it provided during the meet, says Mr Gadad. Having spent as much as it needed the department decided to return Rs 80 lakh to the state exchequer, according to him.

Keywords: Aishwarya Rai, World Kannada Meet, Belgaum, department of Kannada , Mumbai , Bheemappa Gadad, Culture department , Lahari Recording company ,Hachevu Kannadada Deepa, Nirupama Rajendra , Vijay Prakash , Shivamani , Balamurali, Suma Sudheendra troupe,Ranimachayya of Madikeri,Nataka Academy , Mr Gadad.