The suburban commuters travel may not have changed phenomenally in the last one decade, but a Right to Information (RTI) appeal filed by activist Anil Galgali has revealed that the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has spent nearly Rs. 3 crore on their officials’ foreign visits.
From 2003 to 2013, the public sector undertaking formed by the Ministry of Railways and the government of Maharashtra has sent 121 officials abroad. The body spends around Rs2.4 lakh on each foreign visit by an MRVC official.
These trips are seemingly undertaken for studying commercial development of railway land and airspace, technical training, project management and material inspection.
The RTI appeal also exposed that the expenditure on foreign tours have increased from Rs. 9.97 lakh in 2003-04 to Rs. 38.18 lakh in 2012-13.
The expenses were the highest in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 at Rs. 59.89 lakh and Rs. 57.17 lakh respectively. The minimum being Rs. 2.77 lakh in 2011-12.
The officials have visited different destinations such as the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Germany, New York, Switzerland, Malaysia and many other countries as part of their study tour.
“The MRVC has neglected the 2009 guidelines by the government of India for foreign tours of chief executives and functional directors, which mentions that technology such as video conferencing should be used and abroad visits should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary,” said Galgali.
On the other hand, transport experts expressed their discontent over the execution of railway projects in the city.
“Our suburban railway system is nowhere close to the rail infrastructure available in the countries that they visited. The officials should be made accountable for executing the projects,” said Vivek Pai, transport planner.
“In 2006-2008, not only officials but concerned staff from all levels went on the foreign study tour to learn new technology,” said an MRVC official, requesting anonymity.
When contacted, former managing director PC Sehgal, said, “MRVC has implemented over Rs. 4,500 crore worth projects from these visits. Compared to that, Rs. 3 crore is very less.”