Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Babus flights of fancy

Following an investigation on frequent fliers in the UPA Government in February this year, India Today filed separate Right to Information (RTI) applications to every Union ministry except the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on February 28 this year, seeking details of foreign visits made by officials of the rank of director and above. India Today has received the information in 1,297 pages. The details of trips related to trainings of over one month have been excluded. The information gathered is a result of over 80 applications, clarifications, appeals and reminders. Despite these efforts, the ministries of Railways, Earth Sciences and the Department of Personnel and Training are yet to give a final reply. Also, the designations and postings of a few officials may not be the latest as they may have been transferred or would have retired by now. The information throws light on the fact that 1,576 officials of the rank of director and above have travelled more than 5.65 crore km and stayed 24,458 days abroad over the past 40 months (from January 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008). While details about the total expenses incurred were not made available, information received from 45 of the 50 Central ministries (including two departments: atomic energy and space) shows that officials from these ministries spent more than Rs 56.38 crore on globetrotting. In a few cases, costs include expenses incurred on delegates or companions but disaggregated figures were not provided.

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