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Patna: Economists are baffled to find the residents from Bihar going for high-end luxury cars during the COVID-19 time when India faced severe economic slowdown as a result of lockdown.

According to a report of the state transport department, as many as 894 highly expensive cars such as Land Rover, Mercedes, BMW and Toyota Fortuner were sold in Bihar in between April 2020 till date when severe COVID-19 infections left the Indian economy in a bad shape.

Of the total vehicles sold, 21 are Mercedes, nine each Jaguar Land Rover and BMW, seven Volvo automatic, 200 Toyota Fortuner, 291 Toyota Innova Crysta and 157 Safari. Apart from these, a good num-ber of Jeep compass, Scoda and Volkswagen were also sold.

What was interesting was that the sale price of such cars remained higher than the non-C0VID-19 period. Official statistics say against 296 expensive cars (in the price range of Rs2 million and more) sold in 2019-20, a total of 590 such cars were sold in 2020-21 and 304 in 2021-22 till September 11.

“We are literally stunned to find sudden increase in the sale of such expensive cars beyond reach of the common man during the COVID-19 period when month-long nationwide lockdown slowed down the Indian economy and left millions jobless. So, who are buying these luxury cars during this critical time?” asked prominent economist Professor D M Diwakar.

According to Diwakar, who works with Patna’s AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, black money or illegally accumulated money could have been invested to buy such cars. “The common man just can’t afford to buy such expensive cars. They are just battling for survival due to the fast shrinking job opportunities due to COVID-19 effect,” he opined.

A report in The Economic Times also said the second wave of COVID-19 has brutally exposed and worsened existing vulnerabilities in the Indian economy. India’s $2.9 trillion economy remains shuttered during the lockdown period, except for some essential services and activities, the report stated, adding the lockdown had a devastating impact on slowing down the economy.

Some anti-corruption crusaders narrate just another story. According to them, the money meant for providing health infrastructure and facilities to the people and arranging for 14-day stay of returning migrants in special camps was siphoned off by the people in charge of such contracts.

They said the quality of food provided to the migrants was substandard while many migrants fled the camps in alleged league with the camp in-charges but the latter charged money from the government in the name of arranging food and shelter to these people who stayed at home!

Corruption has emerged as a matter of serious concern in Bihar despite all efforts by the government. According to a report of the Bihar Vigilance Department, around 40 government officials have been caught accepting hefty bribes during the COVID-19 period.

Of them, four were caught receiving bribes of more than Rs100,000. They include village council chief Lalbabu Paswan and his secretary who were caught accepting bribes of Rs200,000 and 114,000 respec-tively, Medical officer Dr Subhash Chandra Baitha caught with Rs180,000 and Land acquisition officer Arvind Bharti who was caught red-handed receiving a bribe of Rs 130,000. A good number of arrested officials were those who had received bribes of Rs50,000 or more.