The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry is getting ready to host a chaat-stravaganza today! The party is being held at the residence of I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar at 6, Kushak Road, New Delhi. Around 400 people are expected to grace the occasion, and I even know the menu.
How, you wonder? It’s because you, dear taxpayer, are throwing the party. And whenever you throw a party, the government must announce it to the world in the form of a tender.
The I&B ministry put out a “Short Term Tender Notice” on October 11 asking caterers to bid for the contract to host a party on October 15. The tender does not mention why this party is happening, but I asked around and found out that it is the Diwali party for journalists. An annual practice across governments, I am told.
Allow me to take you through the rules laid out for this grand occasion because, hey, you’re the host so you should know.
The tender says, “SEALED QUOTATIONS for providing Dinner for about 400 invitees.” But the menu, unfortunately, doesn’t seem very dinner-like. Here it is:
Oh, wait. There’s pav bhaji in there. So it’s totally dinner-worthy.
I tried to find out the per plate cost of this glorious menu and it wasn’t that difficult. You see, at the bottom of the tender, there are four caterers listed:
These are supposed to be empanelled vendors, meaning that if other people don’t bid for the tender, one of these will be chosen to feed our guests. To find out the cost, I called Anand Chat Chopal and told them I was hosting a Diwali party for 400 people, recited the menu and asked for an estimate. The chatty chap on the other end told me it would be Rs 40 per item, with even water counted as an item by the way.
So, the total for 12 items comes to Rs 480 per plate. The total cost of catering would be Rs 1,92,000 plus transport, which the vendor said would be Rs 6,000. That’s a grand total of Rs 1,98,000.
But wait. Since this is a tender, I should do what the government is supposed to do, right? Call up other vendors and pick the one offering the cheapest rate and save you, the taxpayer, some money. After googling the other three vendors, I found something odd. See if you can spot it, too.
They all seem to have the same address! Even the phone numbers are common. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on “LK Bakers”.
This is curious, so I investigated further. Our friendly neighbourhood Anand Chat Chopal provided one explanation.
It’s a subsidiary of a listed hospitality company, Bhagwati Banquets & Hotels Ltd, based out of Ahmedabad. The parent company is owned by one Narendra Somani.
Fun fact: Back in 2012, Somani’s name popped up as a possible contender for a BJP ticket from Naroda in Gujarat. A DNA article from the time notes, “He is also believed to be close to CM Narendra Modi.”
Oh well, nothing to see here. No, wait, guess what? Somani’s father ran a tea stall in Ahmedabad.
That’s that. Now let’s talk about what rules we have set for the party. There are house rules, obviously.
Rules for caterers
When your money is being spent, dear taxpayer, the government takes care that the vendors behave. Your money has to be spent well, after all.
The caterer, for one, has to do this.
Bowels. Heh. Sorry, that was too funny to ignore even if it’s a cheap shot.
Moving on, as party hosts, our standards are pretty high. If you serve poor quality food to our journalist guests, no payment shall be made, OK?
In case you haven’t hosted a tender-based party before, there is this one rule you must know about. If the ministry does not like a tender, they can just outright reject it without giving any reasons.
I mean, it’s only reasonable that we give the contract to a “known” person, right? It will ensure the quality of the food they supply and the uniforms the servers wear will be familiar, high-standard, and safe. Even the resultant, totally unrelated, electoral bonds will be trustworthy.
Since we have elected people into government and there’s an army of bureaucrats to help them serve great food to our guests, we shouldn’t worry too much. Today’s party is clearly going to be a lot of fun.
I haven’t been invited, but I know someone who knows someone who has been invited (#NetworkingGoals). If there are some interesting people in attendance, we will update this story. Hopefully, we will also find out who finally got the contract for this wonderful event.
Till then, enjoy the tender party, dear taxpaying hosts!
PARTY UPDATE: Our sources in high places say the tender was finally won by Anand Chat Chopal.
They also tell us that some of the journalists in attendance include Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary, The New Indian Express editorial director Prabhu Chawala, India Today consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai, CNN News18 political editor Marya Shakil, India Today Group editorial director Raj Chengappa, The Hindu political editor Nistula Hebbar and, umm, even Sudarshan TV editor Suresh Chavhanke.
Our sources said journalists were presented a goody bag containing Diwali gifts – a letter encouraging them not to use single-use plastic, a jute bag with a happy apple on it, a Milton bottle, orange rolls from a famous shop in Nagpur. We cannot confirm if all journalists present there accepted the gift bag.