Activists seek info about Modi's travel expenses

As Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi continues to make an issue of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's expenses on foreign travel and treatment abroad, a couple of activists have sought to get back at him on the same issue, asking questions about Modi's expenses on his women empowerment 'sammelans' over the past five years, as well as on his trip to Japan earlier this year.

Activists Trupti Shah and Bharat Sinh Jhala claim Modi is withholding information on his own travel expenses. Shah had filed a right to information 'RTI' application on this issue back in 2007. The government gave her information on the total expenses incurred on events in 27 districts, but didn't specify how much was spent on Modi's travel. Shah has sent a letter to Modi saying information about his and his ministers' travel-related expenses during the 'women empowerment sammelans' had not been provided to date.

Shah has alleged she was denied the information despite repeated reminders. She said the state's general administrative department (GAD), in a letter dated 1 November 2007 provided the list of 27 places visited by Modi from 10 March 2007 to 20 September 2007. But regarding the travelling expenses, the letter stated "the office of the chief minister did not mention the travelling expenses and so the CM's travelling expenses may be considered nil."

This, the activist alleged, is "ridiculous" and "unbelievable" because Modi had travelled to most of the 27 places by helicopter. Shah then wrote a letter on seeking details about the names of the government bodies that bore the expenditure. When her letter didn't elicit a response from the GAD, she sent two reminders in 2008 but she did not get any reply, Shah alleged.

In the last hearing on 16 September this year, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of Gujarat directed the GAD to hand over the relevant information to Shah before the next hearing in October. The officer concerned said the information was not available though they have requested the chief minister's office and other ministers to provide it, Shah said.

Activist Jhala has also questioned the expenditure on Modi's travel to Japan in 2012. "Modi has not given an explanation about his foreign trip expenditure. The people need to know. I do not care if he goes to Japan or China, I want to know if he is spending the people's money. How is he getting so much money for the Vivekanand Yatra? His administration department is also not revealing information. They claim to be under pressure," Jhala said.