Pratibha Patil creates new record; spends 205 crore on foreign trip
New Delhi: Indian President Pratibha Patil’s foreign tours have cost the public exchequer Rs 205 crore. She has successfully managed to create a new record for herself- of being not only the first women president of India but also the first president to spend such a humongous amount on foreign visits.
Since July 2007, Patil has undertaken 12 foreign trips covering 22 countries across four continents. With four more months left for her to complete her five year term, she has planned yet another trip to South Africa in her tentative itinerary.
However when compared to her predecessors APJ Abdul Kalam, K R Narayanan and SD Sharma, she has visited the most number of countries and spend the maximum number of days abroad. Her predecessor A P J Abdul Kalam undertook seven trips to 17 countries in his five-year tenure. Before that, K R Narayanan covered 10 countries in six trips and S D Sharma covered 16 countries in four trips.
Former President Kalam remained on foreign trips for 47 days during his tenure covering the UAE (twice), Sudan, Bulgaria, Tanzania, South Africa, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea, Myanmar, Mauritius, France and Greece.
His predecessor Narayanan visited Peru, Brazil, Nepal, Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg, Turkey, Germany, France and China in his six trips abroad in 46 days of his tenure.
Sharma, who was President between 1992-97, covered 16 countries in four trips which included Ukraine, Turkey, Hungary, the UK, Bulgaria, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Oman, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Italy. He remained on these trips for 47 days of his five-years tenure.
A series of RTI applications has revealed that Air India incurred over Rs 169 crore on use of chartered aircraft, always a Boeing 747-400, on the foreign visits by Patil, mostly accompanied by her family members. A visit to Bhutan was covered by a smaller jet. A further sum of nearly Rs 36 crore has been incurred by the Ministry of External Affairs on accommodation, local travel, daily allowance as well as “miscellaneous” expenses, according to the information provided by the MEA. Air India, has billed the Defence Ministry, which reimburses Air India for using chartered aircraft for the President, for over Rs 169 crore for usage of aircraft by Patil. So far nearly Rs 153 crore has been reimbursed. The remaining Rs 16 crore is still said to be unpaid.
The RTI applications were filed over a period of three years. Sources say that the authorities concerned showed great reluctance to reveal information. During her fiver year term President Patil has visited Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bhutan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Spain, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, the UK, Cyprus, China, Laos, Cambodia, the UAE, Syria, Mauritius, South Korea, Switzerland and Austria. She has spent a total of 79 days abroad.