President Pratibha Patil's foreign visits have cost the public exchequer Rs. 205 crore, surpassing the record of all her predecessors.
Since assuming office as the country's first woman President in July 2007, Ms. Patil has undertaken 12 trips covering 22 countries across four continents. She has four more months to go in her five-year tenure and a trip to South Africa is said to be on the anvil.
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 Ms. Patil, mostly accompanied by 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 External Affairs Ministry on accommodation, local travel, daily allowance and “miscellaneous” expenses, according to its information.
The RTI applications were filed over three years during which the authorities concerned showed great reluctance to reveal information.
The Defence Ministry, which pays Air India for use of chartered aircraft by the President, fended off RTI queries and provided little information.
The airline has billed the Defence Ministry for over Rs. 169 crore for aircraft used by Ms. Patil. Of this, it has paid nearly Rs. 153 crore.