When most were exercising austerity because of rising inflation, Central government ministers went on a spree of foreign trips resulting in the government expenditure rising by around 12 times.
As per information made available under the Right To Information Act, the Central government spent Rs. 678 crore on foreign tours of ministers in 2011-12 as compared to just 56.1 crore in 2010-11.
The government itself did not estimate that the expenditure would be so much.
So, at the beginning of financial year 2011-12, the Finance Ministry provided just Rs 46.9 crore for foreign trips. But, it had to increase funds for their foreign trips subsequently to Rs. 631 crore.
In fact data shows that government spending on foreign tours of its ministers in last financial year was almost the same as the total expense, in this account, in all financial years, of the UPA government which came to power in 2004.
The data provided under RTI is indicative of the point that maximum foreign trips for the Central ministers in a year was in 2011-12.
Subhash Chandra Aggarwal, who had sought information on foreign trips of the ministers, said the government should have taken measures to reduce frequent foreign visits of Union ministers.
“Rule should be only economy-class travel allowed for union ministers during their foreign trips that too with every day of their trip to be justified through a detailed study-report compulsorily to be submitted after every foreign-trip,” he said.
Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia had, however, described many of the foreign trips necessary for building brand India. It was his response to criticism of being on frequent foreign trips.
The government has been under fire for high cost foreign trips of its ministers. The Department of Personnel and Training recently asked all public information officers of the Central government ministries and departments to voluntarily disclose information related to foreign and domestic tours undertaken by the ministers and officials above the rank of joint secretaries.
Earlier, the Central Information Commission had asked the Cabinet Secretariat to keep a separate account of foreign tours of individual ministers so that the information can be provided to the RTI applicants.