Austerity fever has caught on in the Union Cabinet as a host of Ministers vowed to cut down on travel and other expenses, following the example set by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who travelled economy class on Saturday.

Mr. Mukherjee, who is in the midst of a controversy over austerity measures imposed by his Ministry, flew to Kolkata in a budget airline.

His office said he would opt for the economy class during his return also, by an Air India flight on Sunday.

A number of other Ministers, including Vilasrao Deshmukh, M. Veerappa Moily, Anand Sharma, Sushilkumar Shinde, Praful Patel, Mamata Banerjee, Krishna Tirath, Jairam Ramesh and Dinesh Trivedi, too joined the austerity drive .

Mr. Mukherjee might cancel a visit to Cyprus for a Commonwealth Ministers’ meeting. He earlier planned to go there by a special aircraft, sources said. He would fly ordinary class if he went for a World Bank meeting in Turkey later this year.

“It’s nothing new to me. During elections and whenever I travel on commercial flights, I almost [always] travelled economy class. It’s nothing new,” Mr. Mukherjee told journalists in Kolkata. — PTI

New Delhi Special Correspondent reports:

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has instructed officials of the Railway Board and Zonal Railways to adopt austerity measures.

“Instructions have been issued to all concerned that expenditure should be curtailed wherever it is possible,” a senior Railway Ministry official said on Saturday. She herself never travelled in the saloon car in trains as Railway Minister and preferred flying economy class, he said. Ms. Banerjee also asked the six Ministers of State from her party, the Trinamool Congress, to do the same.

Welcoming Mr. Mukherjee’s directive, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has also asked his officials to strictly follow the norms.

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