Denies allegations over air fare issue
Team Anna slipped into deeper crisis on Thursday with allegations levelled against key member Kiran Bedi for charging her hosts full fare on air tickets while availing herself of discounts.
Although Ms. Bedi, who runs an NGO, and the Team's leading light Arvind Kejriwal asserted here on Thursday that there was “no corruption involved,” questions are being raised about the irregularity.
A section of the media reported on Thursday that she had been charging NGOs and institutions that invite her for seminars and meetings inflated travel expenses while utilising her entitlement as a gallantry award winner for discount fares and, at times, claiming Business class fares while travelling Economy.
Maintaining that the event organisers/corporates who invited her were in the know of the arrangement, Ms. Bedi told journalists that there was “no personal gain” for her. She said she saved the difference in fare for her NGO, India Vision Foundation, to be utilised for causes.
“Business class travel is part of the invitation/entitlement from the event organisers/corporates I'm asked to speak at. Travelling economy is a choice, despite entitlement, to ensure that savings remain with the NGO and used for those events which cannot pay travel. I am downgrading [as opposed to upgrading in air travel] myself to save for a cause. There is no personal gain whatsoever,” Ms. Bedi said.
According to her, the corporates/event organisers who invited her wrote out a cheque covering Business class fare in the name of her foundation and left it to the NGO to make travel arrangements for her.
Asked if she did not believe this would hurt the ‘India Against Corruption' movement, she countered, “What is the corruption involved? Many people avail free airline tickets in the name of a cause. Is that corruption? Have I siphoned off any funds? Sorry to disappoint detractors trying real hard to find a smoking gun, even more so when we are in the anti-corruption movement.”
Questioning the timing of the disclosure, Mr. Kejriwal said this was an attempt to derail the anti-corruption movement. “There is no corruption involved. Even so, if any party feels aggrieved, it can file an FIR.” A bureaucrat, however, opined that such action against a serving officer would be “viewed seriously.”.