Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his ministers have blown Rs 678 crore of taxpayers' money on their travel in 2011- 12 - which is more than 12 times spent during 2010- 11, when it was Rs 56.1 crore, an RTI application filed by Delhi- based activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal has revealed.
The PM himself has been criss- crossing the globe in the past two years.Multi- lateral and bilateral visits have taken him from Moscow, the Maldives, and Afghanistan to New York, Bali and Cannes. His South Block cabinet colleague - external affairs minister SM Krishna - also clocked up the air miles with 28 foreign trips - From New York, Islamabad, Beijing, Bali, Singapore and Australia to Israel and Palestine. "The tours are for official purposes. At the age of 80, it should be appreciated that senior ministers can travel so much. These are not pleasure trips," a South Block official said.
The reason for the quantum jump in expenditure is also because the ministers flew in chartered aircraft many times - for instance the Indian Air Force Embraer or the Air India airbus hired by the external affairs ministry for Krishna's visit to Pakistan.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma has logged eight visits to Switzerland, South Africa, Pakistan and France. His senior colleague, defence minister AK Antony, logged six foreign tours during the last two years.
While former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee also travelled to six overseas destinations (including the US, Nepal, Vietnam and France), tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahai travelled to five destinations.
The UPA allies are breathing fire. "The ministers take family members and hangers- on at the taxpayers' expense. The government must give an account of this in Parliament," Rajendra Chaudhary, SP spokesperson, said.
The Opposition, too, has rapped the government. While some of these trips can be justified because of official reasons, the government must introspect on the rising cost of these official tours.
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