As reported by Shyamlal Yadav in indiatoday.intoday.in on 23 February 2009:
India Today - India's most widely read magazine.
Most Union ministers are still frequent fliers
On June 4, 2008 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had written a letter to all the Union ministers: "I am, therefore, writing to ask you to severely curtail expenditure on air travel, particularly foreign travel, except in cases where it is deemed to be absolutely necessary. This economy may be made applicable immediately for your own self and also for all senior functionaries in your ministry."
This letter was followed by an India Today investigation that ministers have made foreign travel equal to 256 rounds of the earth and PMO may have expected that the ministers will curtail their travel expenses.
Manmohan's ministers made 126 trips abroad since June 5 (date of his advise to curtail travel expenses) till November 20 (date of response to us) last year.
15 trips out of 126 were personal trips while rest were official.
Since June 5 to November 20, the PMO got 127 foreign travel proposals of ministers. 15 among them were written directly by the ministers.
PMO has rejected only nine foreign trip proposals of Union ministers during June 5 - November 20, 2008.
But, when acting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced the interim budget recently, it was told that the government had saved Rs. 3 lakh from the allocation on the travel expenses of the ministers.
Accordingly, India Today gathered information regarding the foreign travel made by ministers after the date the prime minister wrote to the Union ministers. This information shows the impact on some of the ministers as more than 34 ministers (excluding the ministers who left the job) have not made even a single foreign trip during this period (from June 5 to November 20, 2008). Even then there were 45 ministers who travelled abroad and made 126 foreign trips and spent 601 days abroad.
The ministers who did not make any trip include: Vilas Muttemvar, EVKS Elangovan, Kanti Singh, P. Lakshmi, Santosh Mohan Deo, Saifuddin Soz, Mani Shankkar Aiyar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Prem Chan Gupta, Meira Kumar, KH Muniappa, Kantilal Bhuria, Subbulakshmi Jegadishan, Sis Ram Ola.
But, ministers like Pranab Mukherjee, Anand Sharma, E. Ahmad, Kamal Nath, Murli Deora, Praful Patel, Vyalar Ravi, P.K. Bansal, Sharad Pawar, Ambika Soni etc are still flying high and making frequent trips. Out of these 126 trips made by these 45 ministers, 15 were personal trips. Moreover, out of these trips, 118 were cleared by the PMO after the date of writing letter to ministers, while proposals for eight trips were cleared earlier. This information also shows that only nine foreign trip proposals of ministers were not cleared by the PMO. Out of 118 proposals that were cleared after the letter, 15 were written to PMO by ministers themselves. New ministers like Santosh Bagrodia and MS Gill are also included among the frequent fliers. Thanks to the confusing and time taking replies earlier on the details of expenses, we did not ask for the details of expenses on these travels.
But ministers are not only getting these foreign trips, they are also availing the Frequent Fliers Points (FFPs) given by airlines. While, the finance ministry issued a circular on October 1, 2008 banning the use of FFPs on personal trips if they availed them against official trips, the ministers are left out. The finance ministry has confirmed this while responding upon an RTI application filed by India Today recently, "Orders are applicable only to Central government employees."
And when we approached Air India to know the details of FFPs earned and used by ministers during last few years, the Air India refused to give this information. When we appealed to the Central Information Commission (CIC) against it, the CIC also rejected our appeal. Information Commissioner M.M. Ansari said in his order, "The disclosure of selective information in respect of the identified ministers could be misused for humiliation and harassment of any passenger." When it is widely published by the government officials that the RTI Act is a weapon for media, this order of the CIC looks not justified.
Therefore, the most of the ministers are making foreign travels and getting benefited in many ways. But it may be seen as a good sign that some of the ministers have chosen to make less foreign travel.
Minister Number of trips (Jun 5 - Nov 20, 2008) Days abroad (Jun 5 - Nov 20, 2008)
Anand Sharma (MoS, MEA) 10 55
Pranab Mukerjee (MEA) 8 29
Kamal Nath (Commerce & Industry) 8 36
Murli Deora (Petroleum and Natural Gases) 6 15
Praful Patel (MoS, Civil Aviation) 5 18
Vyalar Ravi (Overseas affairs) 5 18
PK Bansal (MoS, Finance) 5 22
E. Ahmad (MoS, MEA) 4 18
Sharad Pawar (Agriculture and Co-operation 4 17
Santosh Bagrodia 4 30
Jairam Ramesh (MoS, Industry, Power) 4 19
Oscar Fernandis (MoS, Labour) 4 10
Ambika Soni (Tourism) 4 10
Kapil Sibbal (Science and Technology) 4 29
MAA Fatmi (MoS, HRD) 4 40
P. Chidambaram (Home) 3 9
MS Gill (MoS, Youth Affairs) 3 17
Selja, Housing (MoS, Housing) 3 16
Sushil Kumar Shinde (Power) 3 11
Renuka Chaudhary (MoS, WCD) 2 7
AK Anthony (Defence) 2 7
Ashwani Kumar (MoS, Industry) 2 12
HR Bhardwaj (Law and Justice) 2 11
NN Meena Environ (MoS, Environment and Forest) 2 5
A. Ramdoss, Health & Family Welfare 2 14
TR Balu (Shipping and Road Transport) 2 4
PR Dasmunsi (Information and Broadcasting) 2 2
D. Purandeswari (MoS, HRD) 2 9
Rao Inderjeet (MoS, Defence) 1 11
Subodh K Sahai (MoS, Food Processing 1 2
Akhilesh Prasad (MoS, Agriculture) 1 7
Jitin Prasad (MoS) 1 5
MM Pallam Raju (MoS, Defence) 1 3
SS Vaghela Textiles (Official) 1 3
Chandra Shekhar Sahu (MoS, Rural Development) 1 2
K. Venkatpati (MoS, Law and Justice) 1 3
PR Chavhan (MoS, PMO) 1 7
Raghuvans Prasad (Rural Development) 1 2
S. Jaipal Reddy (Urban Development) 1 10
Suryakanta Patil (MoS, Rural Development) 1 8
V. Radhika Selvi (Home) 1 5
R. Velu (MoS, Railways 1 11
RV Paswan (Chemicals and Fertilisers) 1 13
Ajay Maken 1 12
Arjun Singh (HRD) 1 7
Mani Shankar Aiyar (Panchayati Raj) 0 0
A. Raja (Environment and Forest) 0 0
Jyotiraditya Sindhia (MoS) 0 0
Dinsha J Patel (Petroleum and Natural Gases) 0 0
Kanti Singh (MoS Heavy industry) 0 0
Lalu Prasad (Railways) 0 0
Meira Kumar (Social Justice and Empowerment) 0 0
Prem Chand Gupta (Corporate Affairs) 0 0
SP Jaiswal (MoS, Home) 0 0
Vilas Muttemvar (MoS, New-Renewable Energy) 0 0
Akhilesh Das (as MoS, steel) 0 0
AR Antule (Minoriy Affairs) 0 0
BK Handique (MoS, Parl. Affairs) 0 0
Dasari Narayan Rao 0 0
Dayanidhi Maran 0 0
EVKS Elangovan (MoS, Textiles) 0 0
GK Vasan (MoS, Statistics) 0 0
JPN Yadav (MoS, Water Resources) 0 0
Kantilal Bhuria (MoS, Agriculture) 0 0
KH Muniyappa (MoS, Shipping and Road Transport) 0 0
Mahabir Prasad (Small, Medium Industries) 0 0
Manikrao Gavit 0 0
MH Ambrish (MoS, Information and Brodcasting) 0 0
MV Rajshekharan 0 0
Naranbhai Rathwa (MoS, Railways) 0 0
P. Lakshmi (MoS, Health) 0 0
PR Kindia (Tribal Affairs) 0 0
S. Jagadeeshan (MoS, Social Justice) 0 0
S. Raghupati (MoS, Environment and Forest) 0 0
Saifuddin Soz (Water Resources) 0 0
Santosh Mohan Deo (Heavy Industries) 0 0
Shakeel Ahmad (MoS, Communication and IT) 0 0
Shivraj Patil 0 0
Sisram Ola (Mines) 0 0
SS Palanimanikam (MoS, Finance) 0 0
Suresh Pachauri 0 0
T. Subbirami Reddy 0 0
Taslimuddina (MoS, Agriculture) 0 0
Total 126 601