NEW DELHI: Responding to an RTI application from Dev Asish Bhattacharya, the road transport and highways ministry has failed to shed light on what took T R Baalu to Panama and Cairo by a circuitous route.
Expenses of the trip was paid by cabinet secretariat instead of his own department; strangely, no officials accompanied the DMK leader on his visit to the two destinations.
The department said the trip to Panama and Cairo was not sponsored by it and the purpose of travel had been marked as "not known" and the column on accompanying officials also read "none".
There is a sense of concern in cabinet secretariat over some ministers not properly maintaining overseas travel record and, in certain cases like Baalu's, even failing to submit visit reports.
Law minister H R Bhardwaj offered conflicting reports for his visit to London in late 2005. Personal business or government work which needs discreet handling could possibly be the reason for the reticence, but government is troubled by the trend.
Senior officials said that even if the visit to Panama and Cairo was private in nature, the minister's office would have informed the Cabinet Secretariat about his plans and permission would still have been sought from the PM.
But in this case, it is difficult to assume that there was no official business to be transacted even though Baalu's department maintains an enigmatic silence.
These are not the only incongruities in Baalu's travels. On October 25-27, the minister travelled to the US for a bilateral meeting with the American transportation secretary and while a visit report was received, the ministry refuses to divulge more, saying that the "relevant file is not traceable".
No visit report was received for a trip to Singapore that Baalu went on between September 8-10, 2005. What is clear is that the visits did cost the government. Expenditure for the Singapore trip was Rs 86,359 and for US, it was Rs 5,17,111.