Washington, DC: The foreign trips of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet colleagues cost the Indian exchequer Rs. 567 crore in the last financial year (2015-16), an increase of more than 80% from the previous year, budget documents show. This is besides the over Rs. 500 crore his bureaucrats spend on their travel each year on an average.
The total tour expenses of the PM and his ministers went up from Rs 269 crore as estimated in the budget at the beginning of the 2015-16 fiscal to Rs 567 crore, as per the revised estimates towards the end of the year. In addition, the total tour expenditure of bureaucrats was over Rs 1,500 crore in the three years up to 2014-15.
The UPA-2 Cabinet and its PM spent almost Rs 1,500 crore on travel between 2009-10 and 2013-14. In comparison, the travel bill of the NDA government in three years (between 2014-15 and 2016-17) is estimated at Rs 1,140 crore.
The PM, however, has pledged to slash his expenditure on foreign trips by over 54% in the next financial year which will restore it to the level of UPA’s expenditure towards the end of its term in 2014.The travel bill of the Cabinet and the PM includes expenditure on travel by ministers, ministers of state and ex-PMs and the aircraft used by VVIPs — the PM, President and Vice-President.
Though Modi flaunts a leaner Cabinet, with 64 members compared to UPA’s 75 members, the salary bill of his ministers went up by more than 25% last year compared to 2013-14, the UPA’s last year in office. The allowances of his ministers also shot up to Rs 10.20 crore, which shows an increase of 8% over the expenditure made by theUPA Cabinet.
The cabinet secretariat, which assists the PM, has added a strength of at least 300 since 2015. The strength of the cabinet secretariat as on March 1, 2015 was 900 which increased to 1,201 in 2016, according to the budget.
The travel bills of successive governments have not been impacted by the downturn in the economy since 2008-09. Every year, the finance ministry comes out with a press note announcing a 10% cut in non-plan expenditure that imposes restriction on first class travel by bureaucrats and a cut on foreign delegations of Union ministers besides restrictions on conferences in five-star hotels. Interestingly, the curb on first class travel by senior bureaucrats is lifted in the second half of the fiscal every year.