Union ministers are having a tough time getting their foreign trips approved as the Prime Minister's Office is clamping down on on non-essential visits abroad to reign in expenses.
"At least 21 proposals for foreign trips by 12 Union Ministers — nearly one-fourth of a total of 88 — were grounded after the NDA government took charge on May 26 last year, with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) directly turning down nine of them."—The Indian Express reported.
Among the Union ministers whose travel plans got axed are Shripad Yesso Naik, Najma Heptulla, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and Gen VK Singh.
"With six out of eight proposals affected, Shripad Yesso Naik also tops the list of those who were grounded"—The Indian Express said.
Significantly, all the 88 proposals were given a go ahead by the Ministry of External Affairs before it was forwarded to the PMO for approval from the prime minister.
In June last year, the PMO had issued guidelines tightening the norms for foreign trips by Union ministers, chief ministers/ministers in the states/UTs. The memorandum had also instructed those intending to travel abroad on subsequent visits to submit reports on the "intended outcome" of the previous visit.
Foreign trips by the elected representatives at the cost of the exchequer have often caused furor.
In July last year, four Goa legislators — Avertano Furtado (fisheries minister), Benjamin Silva, Glenn Ticlo and Carlose Almeida — went on a 10-day-long tour to Brazil to watch the World Cup Soccer in Brazil. With the media raising a massive hue and cry over the wastage of public resources on non-public affairs, the four MLAs were ultimately asked to reimburse the expenses borne by the state. Then Goa chief minister and current Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was in the eye of the storm for approving a whopping Rs 89 lakh trip.
Another trip that was undertaken by 30 Karnataka legislators also raised eyebrows because it not only cost the state a massive amount but it was also scheduled at a time when the state was going through an acute drought. Ironically, the lawmakers visited the Amazon rain forests and waterfalls in the guise of a study tour. The trip, which costs the exchequer Rs 8 lakh per head, did not have a single official meeting.
"It was totally a study trip. So many officials go, prime ministers go why don't you go and ask Parliament," Karnataka Assembly Backward Classes Committee chairman BR Yavagal had told CNN-IBN in an attempt to justify the trip.
Legislators from the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh are also part of the junket league. In December 2013, more than 20 party MLAs travelled to Turkey, Greece, UK, UAE and Netherlands at the government's expense. The trip occured when a large number of Muzaffarnagar riot victims were still suffering in the ill-equipped refugee camps.
According to CNN-IBN, a statement from senior Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan had said, "The manner in which women journalists are chasing the delegation and creating an ugly situation by pushing and asking questions in an undignified manner has stunned the people of countries being visited because there is no question for such behaviour in these countries." However, the statement did not provide any convincing reason for taking the trip.
Leave alone, MPs and MLAs, even Rashtrapati Bhavan had a hard time explaining why former president Pratibha Patil went on numerous foreign trips costing the nation a bomb. A Hindustan Times story said that "Patil had incurred an expenditure of Rs 205 crore on her 12 foreign trips covering 22 countries during her five-year term". Her last trip to South Africa and Seychelles as president had cost a massive Rs 18.08 crore.
Updated Date: Jan 13, 2015 14:53:39 IST