New Delhi: A right to information (RTI) application has revealed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers spent nearly Rs 393 crore on domestic and international travel in their five years in office. It has also come to light that their expense was the highest in the first year.
Incidentally, in December 2018, the Ministry of External Affairs in a reply in parliament said Modi had undertaken 48 foreign visits, costing nearly Rs 2,021 crore to the exchequer. This reply, however, covered the cost of maintenance of the PM’s aircraft and setting up of a secure hotline as well.
It also included the cost incurred on other members of the delegation, including representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, security agencies, MEA and the media.
On the other hand, the reply furnished by the Pay and Accounts Office, Cabinet Affairs in case of the RTI filed by activist Anil Galgali only took into account the personal expense on the travel of the prime minister and other ministers.
Through the query, Galgali had asked the PMO to reveal the details of the total expenditure incurred on Foreign Travel Expenses (FTE) and Domestic Travel Expenses (DTE) by Modi and his council of ministers since May 2014.
The reply stated that Modi and his ministers spent Rs 392.57 lakh on domestic and international trips.
Of this, the department stated that a major chunk was spent on international trips – which cost over Rs 292 crores. The remaining amount was spent on domestic travel.
In the reply, the department divided the expenditure into two heads – that incurred by the PM and his cabinet colleagues, and that incurred by the ministers of the state. It said the prime minister and the cabinet ministers spent Rs 263 crore on international travel and another Rs 48 crore on domestic visits – a total spending of Rs 311 crore.
The ministers of state spent Rs 29 crore on foreign visits and Rs 53 crore on domestic visits which brought their net spending to Rs 82 crore. So clearly, the senior ministers spent several times more than the junior ministers, much of whose spending was restricted to domestic travel.
The Pay and Account Office also provided the year-wise expenditure of the Union council of ministers.
It said the maximum amount of money was spent in the first year, 2014-15 when Modi and his ministers spent a total of Rs 109.76 crore. Thereafter, the amount kept declining gradually over the next three years, before rising again in 2018-19.
So the total spending by all the ministers in 2015-16 was Rs 98.16 crore, and this reduced further to Rs 57.62 crore in 2016-17.
In 2017-18, this expenditure declined further to Rs 51.64 crore. However, in the last year it rose by about 50% to Rs 76.32 crore.
Galgali said though he asked for the details of the expenditure of all ministers independently, there was a “lack of transparency” as only a consolidated figure was provided. “Why are all details not kept separately?” he asked.
The activist also insisted that the record provided by the Centre “does not give the full picture and therefore it is half-hearted transparency.”
The activist said the “Government should keep all records of ministers and their trips and should make these available in the public domain by uploading them on the websites.”
This is seen as a means of avoiding unnecessary expenditure on trips, which can be done without.