Opinion » Comment

Updated: May 24, 2012 02:43 IST

'Foreign travel is expensive but necessary for the discharge of official duties'

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Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
The Hindu
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, responds to P. Sainath:

The article “The austerity of the affluent” (The Hindu, May 21, 2012), is so misleadingly distortive on two points that I feel compelled to clarify the position. I have high regard for your newspaper, and subscribe to the notion that there should be full transparency in government. It is in this spirit that I hope these clarifications will be published by you, for the benefit of your readers.

The first error is comparing the daily cost of foreign trips undertaken by me with the Tendulkar poverty line, which incidentally is not on a daily basis, but on a monthly budget basis for a household. This comparison is intended to suggest gross extravagance. Air travel and hotels in major capitals are very expensive, and the class of air travel and the class of hotels are not determined by me, but by government rules applicable to all Ministers, Members of Parliament and senior officials. There is no denying that foreign travel is expensive, but it is often necessary for the discharge of official duties. I should add that each day spent abroad is filled with 14 hours of meetings, and is a day spent away from family and not exactly a holiday. We should, of course, attempt to reduce costs, but we need to consider whether and to what extent this would affect our ability to enter into negotiations immediately on arrival, or have delegation meetings in the hotel room. One needs to carefully weigh the costs and benefits before taking a considered decision, and in any event, this is a decision that would need to be taken by the appropriate authorities.

The second error in the article is to suggest that the frequency of my travels is unnecessary, as the functions of the Deputy Chairman do not require such foreign travel. I agree that the role of Deputy Chairman itself does not, per se, require extensive foreign travel. But the article omits to note that most of the foreign trips made by me were in the capacity of sherpa for the G-20, or as member of the Prime Minister's delegation. I am the co-chair of the Indo-U.S. Energy dialogue and the co-chair of the India-China economic dialogue. These are special assignments and not part of my duties as Deputy Chairman. The decision on who should undertake these tasks is not taken by me, but when chosen to perform these tasks, I consider it an honour, and do the best I can. As in the case of all persons of cabinet rank, each trip is cleared by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office.

I should add that G-20 meetings were especially frequent between 2008 and 2010, because of the global financial crisis. In fact, each summit was preceded by two or three preparatory meetings of sherpas. One could, of course, argue that India should not have been represented at these meetings. That would certainly have saved some money, but the question to ask is whether the country would be better served by not being represented. Finally, in the interest of full transparency on foreign travels I have decided to put all my foreign trips on the website of the Planning Commission so that all those interested can find out where I am going and why.

P. Sainath replies


P. Sainath repliesMay 24, 2012

The austerity of the affluentMay 21, 2012

More In: Comment | Opinion

Well, if a primary school kid says that only Rs.26/- per day is necessary for survival for a human today, he will be asked to go back and do his homework properly before answering next time.
If Planning Commission Vice-chair says the same, he will become guru of modern economics and get to fly to Davos and Las Vegas for economic "summits"
Feeling sorry for my country.

from:  Madhu
Posted on: Jun 5, 2012 at 15:04 IST

Montek does not know or care about the reality of the poor Indian people. Worse is the fact that he refuses to reach them and simply justifies it using different yardsticks for measuring poverty and for himself. It's a shame on you, Hypocrisy, thy name is Montek.

from:  M.S.Chagla
Posted on: Jun 2, 2012 at 11:43 IST

The Dr's travel excesses in the wake of a call for austerity is painfully indicative of the unabashed approach to spending public money that is rivalled only by the brazen efforts of politicians to lining their pockets without the slightest tinge of conscience. What can one expect from a country whose beaureaucracy and politicians are mired in the slime of filthy lucre and no field of activity is exempt from the reach of their tainted hands. Montekji has made his money, maybe he should step down and allow somebody else to. After all, we are an egalitarian society that believes in equality of opportunity.

from:  praveen
Posted on: May 28, 2012 at 20:56 IST

Instead of exposing himself by giving such an insensitive reply -
justifying his Rs. 2 Lakhs per day expense while advocating Rs.
26 as Poverty Line limit for aam-aadmi - Dr. Montek should have
given following promises to us - we the people :

1. He will henceforth travel only Economy Class ;
2. During his public funded Foreign trips, he will stay in Hotels
abroad with room tariff of not more than $ 100 per day ;
3. He will not further neglect his Planning Commission work and
adhere to the timelines for the current Five Year plan.

Posted on: May 28, 2012 at 08:37 IST

Rahul Mukherji- Really? A public servant spending 2 lakhs of rupees per
day while dismissing 22 rupees as the amount needed for daily survival
is a flippant issue? What good is a good Indian "global image" going to
do if the people aren't satisfied and happy?

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: May 27, 2012 at 20:47 IST

It is imperative that articles like the one by Mr. Sainath are not taken seriously. The government is hobbled with political blockages despite having enacted the Right to Information, NREGA and the Right to Education. The Indian economy, its global image, and its interaction with the global economy need the smartest of people to take their work seriously during their foreign sojourns. Mr. Ahluwalia is one such. We should congratulate Mr. Ahluwalia for having explained the issue and for taking the pains to broadcast his trips on the Planning Commission’s web site. How I wish others, who were not the target of this offensive, would take such issues more seriously. Please allow Mr. Ahluwalia to do his excellent work for the nation. We should criticize him on substantive issues and not the flippant ones discussed by Mr. Sainath.

from:  Rahul Mukherji
Posted on: May 27, 2012 at 07:38 IST

Which is worse socialism or the sort of 'I have money & power, so I will' sort of dollarocracy? Definitely this is not the capitalism of free play of market forces suggested by adam smith. india government of today is the best example of the worst form for governance.

from:  prakash
Posted on: May 26, 2012 at 11:04 IST

Not where you went and why, Dr MS Ahluwaliah. The particulars of the
expenses incurred, so that we humble citizens might see whether your
foreign travel budget is indeed beyond cuts and snips, or "reform" as some might call it.
Plus your reply is very mediocre. Nothing you have said shines any new light on this affair of your foreign travels. Without details, it's an exercise in futility. And I'm not deliberately trying to undermine public confidence in the Dy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India. You must understand, a "responsible" public servant who claims that Rs 22 per day is enough for a man to survive (irrespective of whatever you might have been trying to delink) and then defends his arguments has opened himself to attacks on his credibility and soundness. Hope you get the point.

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: May 26, 2012 at 05:55 IST

95% of the travels abroad by the politicians and bureaucrats is quite unnecessary in this day and age of global connectivity. Why not these people who want to waste tax payer's money on these trips use video conferencing that is only a fraction of the cost of actual travel?

from:  Balasubramaniam
Posted on: May 26, 2012 at 03:35 IST

excellent article by sainath, a good start for a genuine discussion.i
see a hope at the end of the road, yes rti works well.

from:  parthi
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 16:00 IST

Jagan, I support you fully. Use the word poverty figures and people immmediately assume the statistician should also be poor to able to take their numbers. A statistician is a mathematician and planner, not an NGO who caters for the poors needs.

from:  Padmakumar Rao
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:41 IST

@Jagan: None of the 3 articles were about the Planning Commission's work. It is unfair, therefore, to blame the readers for not commenting on it. The articles were about excessive travel/hotel expenses, in a period of 'austerity' proclaimed by the govt, and by a man who asks fellow citizens to live on a budget at a fraction of the amount he probably tipped his porter to carry his Louis Vuitton trunk into his hotel room!
It is a matter of great pity that so many highly educated Indians with doctorates - earned or showered - have fallen prey to sensory and sensual delights, and forgotten the purpose of their short lives on this earth, what makes people great or why they were showered with the awards and honours in the first place!!! It is an even greater pity that they are unable to inspire the younger generation, or people less fortunate than themselves, to aim for better things in life than bling and worse!

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 14:35 IST

While I sincerely appreciate Mr.Jagan's concerns, I would like to
underline that most of us are not concerned with the expenditure on
the foreign trips but on the double standards that these leaders
adopt. They need comfortable rooms to put up so that they can
immediately attend to meetings. What about thousands of workers who do
not even have basic facilities like toilets? Is their work nothing?
The figures that they quote and the plans that they draft are a
further insult to the poor.
Why...let each one of us contribute the money for a month and ask our
leaders to survive on that. They are leaders, so let them lead the way
for us.

from:  Neetika
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 14:11 IST

How useful are these foreign trips. We have huge delegations going to
study traffic management,civic planning etc etc. What do they do?
There is no change even after they finish their 'study'. Conditions
remain the same. Most of these delegations go on a joy trip. If we had
some positive results we would not have any objections.

from:  radha
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 14:02 IST

14 hours of meetings everyday! I sobbed in joy at the hard work our
functionaries put in on behalf of the country. Then a nagging thought
crossed my mind. Does this include an hour or two for an expensive lunch
and 4 to 5 hours for the evening cocktails and dinner? And then, one
could also very correctly describe a dinner date with a desirable
companion as a "meeting"?

from:  Devi Kusumrani
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 13:21 IST

Original article good but subsequent user comments now approaching a reverse bias against deputy chairman. My balanced view is this: - Planning commission offers 'thought leadership' and produces long term plans - Government policies and administration actually execute these and other policies and take greater responsibility for poverty in India. Nobody in this discussion is offerring a serious criticism with facts and figures of our 5 year plans. So even if he wanted to, I am not sure Deputy Chairman can have a direct impact on poverty alleviation.
- For a planning role of such a vast country some amount of travel is expected. In a globalized world, planners need to meet stakeholders around the world. Equally, deputy chairman may not be the right person to go and meet a wage labourer or a farmer. He needs to be offered correct statistics and allowed to plan at a higher level. We need to take this useful discussion away from emotions because Sainath's original article was good.

from:  Jagan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 12:25 IST

The approvals in the government are nothing but a formality especially in the case of people like Ahluwalia. I have two question to ask him. Why most of the times he went only to US ? Can he give the details of his expenditure of USD 4000 every day? As he believes in transparency, I am sure he would be quite comfortable in answering my questions through your paper.

from:  S L Gera
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 12:24 IST

This is more like a defence than a 'clarification'. If Dr.Ahluwalia is
so industrious and particular about work, why is the Twelfth Plan
document not ready yet, even after we being a year into the Plan? We do
not want people who spend most of their time in Board rooms and in
meetings to plan for us. Had his highness spent time with the common
people, he would have not framed and defended the absurd poverty line

from:  Neetika
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 12:11 IST

My critique of Dr Alhuwahlia is not just a bureaucratic read of his response, but alludes to an attitude, that is unsaid ( or unwritten). I think there was reasonable justification to react that way, as Dr Ahluwahlia was casting himself between being 'the chosen one', 'martyred to this role', bearing the burden of saving the world', and 'being constrained by the system to spend as much as he did' - all of which never addressed the core issue of expenses (and did not explain as was pointed out by Sainath, what appears to be his cursory handling of the planning commission role almost in absentia).

from:  K P Vinod
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:34 IST

Travel Class explanation is totally bogus... Take for instance lower level officers in he Government and other public sector undertakings. Meetings/trainings are fixed suddenly and even if their entitlement is AC I Class in trains, we find many of our officers just travelling in Bus / Second Class. Look at the work area in some of the State Governments.. you do not even have sufficient chair or space to work leave alone the stationery that is being put to use.
Just have a look at those people who lay tar roads in our country. The contractor has to provide gum boots, et al, but what he really wears is a worn out car tube cut and tied to his foot...Mr. Ahluwalia and those others... are you still part of India or a US based NRI planning for India??

from:  Bhuvarahan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:02 IST

.. " Nero fiddles when Rome burns " . Yes ,this is the attitude of
Ahuliwallahs ,Prathibas ,Meenas , host of other unknown & unreported Bureaucrats etc. spending billions when common men are being burdened with sky-rocketing prices of essentials & Government fixing less than R40 for below,poverty line . MMS ,really you have made this country laughable.

from:  Prof.R.Krishnamurthy
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 06:10 IST

If MSA has not read about the two persons who experimented with The
Planning Commission's figures - (see Harsh Mander's "Barefoot - The
other side of life"), he should read about it now, and then word his
counter response, if any. “Wish we could tell you that we are happy to
have our ‘normal' lives back. Wish we could say that our sumptuous
celebratory feast two nights ago was as satisfying as we had been
hoping for throughout our experiment. It probably was one of the best
meals we've ever had, packed with massive amounts of love from our
hosts. However, each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that
there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will
remain a dream for quite some time. That we can move on to our
comfortable life, but they remain in the battlefield of survival — a
life of tough choices and tall constraints. A life where freedom means
little and hunger is plenty..."

from:  Swarna
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 05:46 IST

At one time I was a manager for the State of California, working as purchasing manager for a $6 billion a year agency. We dealt with unemployment insurance and job training for adults. As of 2004 I can state the following figures for what an executive with an office window on the state capitol would expect for travel costs: Car rental/fuel was about $60 per day in California, comparable with Mumbai. As the Doctor would not drive, a car w/driver runs about $300 per day. Hotels in San Francisco ran a max of $110 per day on gov't negotiated rates. Per deim/food ran $35 per day, reimbursed w/receipts. I plan a spring trip to India. I see round trip costs for coach around $1,500 each. With 42 trips, 274 days, for one person I see a max expense of around $675 per day, or about 33k rupees. Given that the Doctor might fly first class, or bring a staff you may double it as they'd share a car, to $1,200 daily. And not all nations cost as much as California. $4,000 daily is too much, cut it down.

from:  Ed Hayden
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 03:34 IST

"People don't like their politicians to be comfortable. They don't like you having expenses, they don't like you being paid, they'd rather you lived in a cave."
Quote from the British political TV show The Thick Of It

from:  Anita
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 00:33 IST

Seems like piqued by the brilliantly lettered master cartoon on
him,Dr.Ahluwalia decided to litter and make a full circle with an
astounding self caricature!The "considered decision" of the Deputy
Chairman of the PC(apparently exhausted by juggling too many roles and
the horrible snarl due to multi tasking-the rationality of the
criminal choice "beyond" him as acknowledged by His modesty-especially
that of 'shepherding' and the divine task of "being
represented")should have been sticking to the time tested principle of
the diplomat/sherpa-"thinking twice before saying nothing".Since he
differs to think out of the box and act transparent(the article
appeared on the lead page of The Hindu on 21.05.2012 and seems
Dr.Ahluwalia had spent considerable time contemplating the response)the "beneficiary" reading class of the newspaper deserved a sensible and coherent response.Infact as Sainath points out instead of contradicting the article the response boomeranged.A puzzling "choice" indeed!

from:  Sherin
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 23:29 IST

I just want to ask the Dy chairman of planning commission this following question:
What was the value of US dollar and the price of petrol when he assumed his office and what are the values now? To what extent by his planning mitigated the hardships of aam aadmi then and now.

from:  S Raju
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 22:51 IST

If we talk about austerity,I think one should himself opt for a lower budget hotel and air travel.The argument that all these expenses are in law and sanctioned by ministry of external affairs is very weak.People in power should be extra cautious while spending public money.

from:  kumar sourav
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 21:44 IST

But why to stay at highly expensive hotels.
Again the same story - Ultimately we are paying for life style of these officials and politicians. They stay in posh hotels, travel in style and that in wau supports rich businessmen. So in current Indian scenario poor people are paying for rich. at the same time we middle class and poor class are getting bad roads, no water supply, poor sanitation, bad health care and education.
These day to day things are not relevent for rich class except roads, but here also they have better cars. They have their own water supply, gensets and can afford to go to 7 star hosiptals and send kids to west for education. So this reply is just an eyewash. But let us give credit to him for being sensitive to respond to article.

from:  Arvind
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 21:39 IST

Mr Ahluwalia, Not only does P Sainath's reply point out the fallacies in your
clarification but even a general reading of what you have written
seems to shift the blame for the colossal costs of your travel to someone else ie the government. This does not mitigate what I may call the ethical mistake in a poor government spending so much money on 'achieving' dubious objectives.Please forgive me for saying that you head a redundant organisation which does nothing productive and should be wound up. The halcyon days of 'planned' development are over.

from:  Sumedha
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 21:18 IST

Mr Ahluwalia says that during foreign trips 14-hours were spend everyday
in attending meetings or official works. Hope he would be transparent
enough to give us the details of which meeting he attended, whom he meet
and how he spent the days during the foreign travels.

from:  Rajib Guha
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 21:08 IST

Undoubtedly, foreign travel is necessary for attending important summits and discussions at various international levels. But what is the need for taking so many family members along when there is no need for them. Tax payers money should be more efficiently used.

from:  Sumit
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 20:58 IST

Thank-You Mr.Ahluwalia Saheb...for taking out your precious time
responding to the article by Sainath. I do agree that Foreign trips
are a necessary to represent INDIA on the global front & to show
active participation in such summits on behalf of INDIA is very well
appreciated. As the committee always selects you (Saheb) to represent INDIA on various global summits & as well you are then entitled to various luxuries which are entitled for the same post you know you can do a good amount of cost-cutting like not travelling in a Limo, Business class tickets...etc. Also why doesn't this Committee which always sends you on trips to foreign countries ask you to travel within INDIA?.Travel in the rural villages where people hardly get a proper meal in a day, No electricity, water supply..there is this endless list Mr.Ahluwalia Saheb please its a humble request as you are Deputy Planning Chief, devise something for rural INDIA as well as for these peoples tears have already
rolled out.

from:  KUNAL
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 20:46 IST

We are thankful to Dr.Ahluwalia for his "high regard for your newspaper". The Hindu is what it is because of journalists like P.Sainath. It is reasonable that Ahluwalia is keen on preserving his "ability to enter into negotiations immediately on arrival". That is why he is forced to stay in luxurious hotels. Does not the fact that "each day abroad is filled with 14 hours of meetings and is a day spent away from family" make him unproductive in negotiations? He should spend less number of hours each day on meetings and take his entire family with him so that he will uphold nation's honour by ensuring utmost quality in discussions. Since each trip is cleared by PMO,I hope he has forwarded Sainath's article to the prime minister "in the interest of full transparency" (which he quotes twice in his response). Let us await PM's response.In all probability, Ahluwalia would be abroad in the meanwhile.

from:  K.R.Srivarahan
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 20:22 IST

Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, for the number of trips that you made to US, had you been touring this country, you would have been able to understand the problems of the people in differnt states and regions and accordingly would have been able to deicde on allocation of rightful resources for them. As the deputy chairperson of the Planning commission you had this unique oppurtunity which you have wasted and would continue to do so. Your interests lies in attending being sherpa for the G-20, or as member of the Prime Minister's delegation and in being in the co-chair of the Indo-U.S. Energy dialogue and the co-chair of the India-China economic dialogue.You consider it as a honour to chair these positions but the fact is you are such a disgrace to the position of Deputy chairperson of the Planning commission and the only person who has brought more disgrace to the Commission is your boss for appointing you and your combined indiffernce to the concern and problems of the poor in this country

from:  SREENI N K
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 19:54 IST

Dr Montek Singh may be doing great service to the country but US$4,000 per day is simply unacceptable. Does he travel by first class and live in Presidential suites?

The Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Hsien Loong once travelled from Hanoi to Singapore by Tiger Airways, which is a budget airline. The leaders of our impoverished country have hard hearts and soft heads, whereas it should be the other way around.

from:  Prem Mohan
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 18:58 IST

It is not entirely correct to put single out Mr. Ahluwalia and put all
the blame on him. He is right when he says that his perks are decided
by the Government. I dare the government put the details of
expenditure incurred by bureaucrats, ministers and parliaments when
they undertake foreign trips abroad. We should appreciate the fact
that Mr. Ahluwalia published these figures suo motu. Although his
defense to Sainath's article is rather meek, we should thank him for
taking some time off from his busy schedule and clarify a few things
to The Hindu's readers.
My suggestion is that it would do much good to the society if we focus
our attention on the profligacy of the the system or the institution
rather than a single individual. My sincere thanks to Mr. Sainath for writing such a well-researched article.

Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 18:29 IST

The way to control expenses of any large organisation - and the govt is a very large organisation - is through policies (what's allowed/disallowed, luxury levels, amount limits, supporting evidence required etc), submission/approval procedures, and regular audits. Publishing raw data (hiding more than revealing?) on a website, without also auditing the details, instead of improving control may provide a perfect excuse / escape route!! Individual citizens or even newspapers should not be expected to audit these!!! Reviewing the reasonableness of the policies, the effectiveness of monitoring / controlling mechanisms, and following through the audit reports might be more fruitful. Given the astronomical amounts involved in alleged national plunders, and the endemic nature of bribery and corruption in India, is it not essential to prevent abuse through effective legal, investigative and punitive measures, and systemic changes? Are we back to asking for Jan Lokpal??

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 17:02 IST

The day Mr.Ahluwalia proclaimed that Rs.22 per day(or whatever paltry figure) was adequate for an individual to avert poverty in India, he lost the intellectual right to be a person of consequence to represent India in any forum. His justification of his expenses as those that are determined by Govt rules only makes him sound even more hollow. If indeed international travel is expensive, so is the business of eking out a living in India. Perhaps, Mr. Ahluwalia does not know what it costs to live in India because he is either living off Govt sponsored housing and other freebies or because he is outside the country for a good period of time. I challenge him to live on Rs.220/- per day in India (allowing for 10 times what he allows for the poor) and he would struggle to even get to his office everyday. How do we tolerate such persons in positions of responsibility in the Government?

from:  C K Jaidev
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 17:00 IST

The explanations and justifications are not at all rational and acceptable.

from:  Subhankar Kundu
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 16:55 IST

I do agree that foreign travels are necessary for representing Indian side at various level.But why not traveling through economy class and staying in lower budget hotel ? I am sorry to write that when Mr. Ahluwalia tells that the requirement of an indian BPL per day is only Rs.22per day then in what condition he is expending the money so lavishly .Everybody is aware that his family is in US and he is taking so much foreign travel to meet his family also .He is aware that as per the recent survey India has got the maximum no.of poor who earn their live hood three times a day..In order to save these type of persons our Govt. is not interested in bringing the lok pal bill nether this govt. is interested to penalise these type of Bureaucrats,Politicians etc. Lot of black money is in Swiss bank and our policy makers are not at all interested to unearth the same. This is a shame to democracy.

from:  Chaitanya Agarwal
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 16:38 IST

Montek Singh Ahluwalia Saheb, the article must have pained you as well as exposed you-that because you have issued rebuttal to Sainath article in Hindu on expenditure on your foreign trips well analysed and made logical by Sainath! You must realise the pain and agonies of urban and poor people in leading their life on sum propounded by you and submitted before the Supreme Court by the Planning commission in the dispute to mainly determine poverty in the country. You must realise that India is not Europe and US where expenditures are not considered major factor because of abundance of wealth!This is India-where over 80% people are poor without two meals per day.Better you would have undertaken such trips in rural areas of India where people are in economic hardship and experienced hardships-only than you would have known-what is poverty and poor in India? Please do not make India Europe and US but also look the economy of China and compare with India.

from:  krishnkumarsingh
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 16:26 IST

Sir, as India is becoming an important country day by day, it is therefore necessary to be represented at various world forums. A definite and systematic strategy with cost cutting measures shall be undertaken by the ministry of External Affairs & PMO to represent India at various levels in the International arena. It is indeed heartening to know that the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who is one of the chief architect of the modern Turkey and the man far ahead of the stature of Henry Kissinger spends 250 days in a year on board (airplane) struggling for the region and the world at large to become more safer and economically vibrant. As a result he may be spending millions of dollars, but what matters is what you are achieving out of it.

from:  Muzaffar Deshmukh
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 16:11 IST

I do agree foreign trips are necessary, By simply saying the class of air travel and the class of hotels are not determined by me, It is like feigning ignorance, You could opt for a lower budget airfare ,and lower budget hotel There are many things that can be avoided . Austerity or charity should start at home. We common people do not have the option of austerity left as we need to earn daily for 3 times daily. Hope the government tax evasion very penal offence ,Government should unearth the black money in India from politicians , Bureaucrats, Police & government staff.

from:  yusuf
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 16:09 IST

We should appreciate Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia's for his timely explanation of govt. spending on foreign trips and submission of expense report by public site. But why not govt. publicises all the foreign trips expenses, incurred by bureaucrats, on the public site. This will be the real step for austerity.

from:  Manish Singla
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:55 IST

Mr. Ahluwalia, please...please do not answer like a mediocre student. You reply does not make any logic, in fact you are trying to avoid the question. Disappointed by your reply.

from:  Satyajit Kumar
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:53 IST

I am totally accepting with Mr Ahluwalia's explanation.We need to compare cost benefit ratio. Any how this is good thing that he responded quickly and explained , this is appreciable thing.This shows his sincerity.

from:  Prasad
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:49 IST

I am of the opinion that Mr. Ahluwalia does not know the reality of the poor Indian people. Even the UN has made the survey that the number poor in India is higher than the whole of Africa. Does the planning commission help to improve the rural area and the life of the poor Indians? We need to plan that the people may not migrate to towns rather they settle in a well infrastructured rural set up. The whole amount used for travel must be productive. If you look at the life of Europe there is a lot to learn but our leaders and executives just enjoy the Western luxury and get back to India. Anyway, a real introspection is needed.

from:  Sabu
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:39 IST

In my opinion,P. Sainath replies are more logical and true, hence, one can conclude that Montek Singh Ahluwalia has overlapping of his personal interests with the national ones. We should be thankful to P. Sainath because he has pointed out right things which could eventually help the starving nation to get rid of poverty.

from:  kaaku Sharma
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:33 IST

All the foreign trips and meetings at the summits with foreign delegates and who else - has now resulted in todays financial mess - WHAT IS THE USE OF IT ALL IN THE END - nothing but the same old story - old wine in new bottles - and waste of Indian Tax Payers money - Correct me if I am wrong !!

from:  Paul
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:32 IST

Will Dr. Ahluwalia also be posting his expense report online?

from:  Raj
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 15:31 IST

Submitting expense report by through public site would be an Ideal way of spending
people money.

from:  Raj
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 13:18 IST

I don't totally disagree with Mr. Ahluwalia's explanation. If he indeed is representing India in the Indo-US economic and in the Indo-China dialogues, then he does need to undertake travels. I presume he has his family in the US and this makes all the trips look a little personal. I feel that Ahluwalia's frequent travel to the western world has made him forget the real India. Probably, he has lost touch with the aam-aadmi and hence, he is sticking his neck out to support the INR 22 value for the BPL definition. Probably, he should just focus on the economic dialogue rather than the planning commission. We need independent contributors to the planning commission - someone of the stature and depth of P Sainath.

from:  Amol
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 12:30 IST

While one must appreciate Dr. Ahluwalia for responding, and seeking to clarify his trips (but not expenses) mentioned in Sainath's article, his defense remains hopelessly weak, and sans logic. Why? Dr. Ahluwalia should read Sainath's reply. His identification of "errors" in Sainath's article is polemic and assertive, and not backed by either logic or evidence. For $4000, one can comfortably take a vacation for 7 days in Barmuda! And for him, this is a day's expense (very pertinent is the comparison of 40 US Cents, which he allots a non-poor Indian to spend). As a taxpayer (and, accordingly a contributor to a small percentage of Dr. Ahluwalia's travel expenses), I do not want a sherpa to travel in a limousine.
And finally, as Sainath mentions, Dr. Ahluwalia is grossly inefficient (if not negligent) in his duties as Deputy Chairman. If he cannot undertake his responsibility as the Deputy, should'nt he be accountable?

from:  routh
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 10:09 IST

We must indeed thank the honourable Mr Ahluwalia for a. taking time out from his busy schedule to read Mr Sainath's column b. considering it necessary to respond to the column c. offer us, the unwashed and illiterate masses, a glimpse into the rarified world of international economic diplomacy. The crux of Sainath's article however still remains unquestionable as he himself has said.

from:  vichitra P K
Posted on: May 24, 2012 at 09:19 IST
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