Payments from disaster funds insult to celebs, victims: BJP

Dehradun, Feb 27: The Uttarakhand government using funds meant for disaster victims to make payment to cricketer Virat Kohli and musician Kailash Kher for a promotional video for the state is an insult to them, the BJP has said.

"By making payments to Virat Kohli and Kailash Kher out of disaster funds, Chief Minister Harish Rawat has not only insulted the disaster victims but also these celebrities who were not aware out of what fund they were being paid," state 

BJP president Ajay Bhatt said.

Rawat had yesterday defended paying Rs 47.19 lakh from the disaster relief fund to a firm, in which Kher has a stake, for a tourism video featuring Kohli, saying it was the government's prerogative to make payments from any fund.

It is likely that they would have refused to accept the amount given to them by the state government had they known they they were being from funds meant for people devastated by the 2013 Kedarnath deluge, Bhatt said in a statement released 

soon after the chief minister's conference yesterday.

The BJP has demanded that Rawat apologised to the disaster victims, the celebrities and the people of Uttarakhand in general for doing something which tantamounted to insulting them.

On the basis of information obtained under RTI, BJP leader Ajendra Ajay had recently accused Harish Rawat government of making a payment of over Rs 47 lakh to Kohli through Kailasa entertainment Pvt ltd for a 60-second video in which the cricketer is seen promoting tourist and religious destinations in the state.

A few months ago Ajay had accused the state government of paying Kher in crores out of disaster funds for making a promotional documentary on Char Dham. 

However, Rawat yesterday justified the payment made to the cricketer, saying spreading the message of a safe Char Dham pilgrimage or promoting Uttarakhand as a safe tourist destination was equally important as carrying out reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the disaster-affected areas.