The Ministry of Railways spent Rs 13.46 crore on the inauguration of various rail projects and services via video conferencing between November 2014 and September 2017, according to a reply to an RTI query.
The expenditure was incurred on 166 events, including inauguration through video link of new trains, escalators, foot over-bridges, waiting halls, VIP lounges and toilets built at different stations, the RailTel Corporation of India said in reply to city-based RTI activist Manoranjan Roy.
The RailTel Corporation, an ICT (information and communication technology) arm of Railways, said the government spent Rs 13.46 crore on these inaugurations between November 9, 2014 and September 3, 2017, when Suresh Prabhu was the railway minister.
The corporation is tasked with arranging technical logistics for video conferencing, mainly laying broadband connection from the venue to the nearest station, a railway official said.
"The other logistics like stage, curtains, flowers, refreshments, sound, lights and LED screens are arranged by the local railway administration," he said.
Kailash Verma, a member of Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), the Western Railway's panel of commuters, said such expenses are unnecessary and wastage of taxpayers' money.
However, a Western Railway official said the ministry has been investing huge sums to ensure better facilities and comfort to travellers.
"In the last four years, the Railways has invested huge money for passengers' comfort and witnessed a quantum jump in the execution of projects.
In this comparison, such expenses (on inauguration) are not so high," the official said on condition of anonymity.