- 57 trips to 21 cities in 18 months
- Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Nagpur among cities most visited
- Airfare of over Rs 20 lakh incurred
- Ministers paid Rs 24 lakh for ‘refreshment’
- Airfare, refreshment of `44 lakh for ministers on trips
SRINAGAR: The government has spent over Rs 44 lakh on airfare and ‘refreshments’ for PDP-BJP ministers while they were on ‘official’ tours as many as 57 times to 21 different cities in India.
Official data accessed by Kashmir Reader shows that Mumbai has been the most preferred destination for the ministers who visited the city 22 times since the PDP and the BJP first joined hands in March 2015.
On airfare alone, the government in its current and previous term spent Rs 20,22,013 which excludes the airfare for visits made to New Delhi, to foreign destinations, and on state chopper services. In June 2016 during the assembly session, the government had told the House that it spent Rs 5.04 crore during 2015 for repair, maintenance, and fuel charges on state-owned helicopters and aircraft.
An amount of Rs 24,19,000 in the form of ‘refreshment charges’ has also been paid to the ministers till December 2016.
Sajad Gani Lone, the minister who held the Animal Husbandry portfolio in 2015-16, travelled to Bhopal and Hyderabad in this period at a cost to the government of Rs 37,861. Thereafter, as Social Welfare Minister in his second stint during 2016-17, he flew from Jammu to Goa at an airfare of Rs 49,012.
Apart from the CM, current or ex-ministers who visited Mumbai at least once during the two terms include Abdul Gani Kohli, Priya Sethi, Imran Ansari, Javaid Mustafa Mir, Farooq Andrabi, Abdul Haq Khan, and Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu (who visited the metropolis 8 different times since 2015).
Not just the cabinet ministers, the ministers of state (MoS) also set on several journeys. Priya Sethi, the MoS for higher education, as per official data, visited Mumbai, Bangalore and Dehradun in 2015-16 incurring a total airfare of Rs 87,661. Then in 2016-17, she again travelled to Mumbai, Chennai, and Calicut costing the state government Rs 99,757.
Another MoS, Asiea Naqash, went on an ‘official’ Ajmer trip in 2015-16 at a cost of Rs 19, 689. Interestingly, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, former MoS for Housing and Urban Development in 2015-16, drew cost for airfare of Rs 74,089 for a destination not mentioned in the official records.
Chander Prakash, BJP minister for Industries and Commerce, made an ‘official’ trip from Srinagar to Nagpur in 2016-17 for Rs 29, 580. The minister was also paid over Rs 24 lakh in the form of ‘refreshment’ charges.
Official data reveals that the amount spent on refreshment substantially increased in 2016-17 as compared to the earlier government term. For example, Naeem Akhtar, who until a few weeks ago served as education minister in both the PDP-BJP governments, was paid Rs 86,000 as ‘refreshment’ in 2016-17 as compared to Rs 38,000 in 2015-16.
Similarly, Abdul Haq Khan, current and previous rural development minister, was paid Rs 1,20,000 for refreshment in his current term as compared to Rs 30,000 earlier.
On average, each minister received about Rs 30,000 in lieu of ‘refreshment’ charges in their previous term and the same was more or less doubled in their new tenures.