Near revolt in cabinet forces PM to loosen austerity belt

Strong opposition from ministers belonging to allied parties have forced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to partially roll back the stern austerity measures his government had announced.

<b1>The directive to travel economy class, in particular, had many ministers up in arms, sources said. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar recalled how, when he was defence minister once, his Russian counterpart and other Russian officials were shocked to find him travelling economy.

DMK leader and Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran pointed out how the exercise of saving on air travel could end up in the government actually spending more. He recalled how his staff had to travel two days ahead for a meeting outside the Capital and the government had to foot the hotel bills.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma spoke of the practical difficulties involved. Ministers, he said, have to travel frequently and often have to hop across continents at short notice.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah literally put his foot down on travelling economy. There is no leg space for him there said the tall leader.

Some ministers also pointed out the Ministers of External Affairs, Home, Finance and Defence have their own aircraft to fly while they are dependent on public carriers.
The PM finally put an end to the controversy. You can take special permission for flying business class, he told them.


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