Narendra Modi‘s Foreign travels are often critiqued by the opposition for their frequency as well as cost. But though Modi has spent more days abroad than his predecessor Manmohan Singh, it has hardly cost more.
Compared the foreign travels of Modi in his first four years as Prime Minister and those of Singh in the first four years of UPA-2. It has been found that both cost the government almost a similar amount of around Rs 387 crore in terms of the money paid to Air India.
Both have taken equal number of Air India chartered flights in their four respective years.
While Manmohan Singh’s 31 trips in 2009-2013 cost Rs 386.35 crore, Modi’s equal number of trips in his first four years cost Rs 387.26 crore. It is Rs 91 lakh more than in Manmohan’s first four-year tenure in UPA-2.
Modi was also on five additional foreign trips in his first four years on an Indian Air Force BBJ Aircraft to neighbouring nations, for which the government did not have to pay.
Senior government officials on the condition of anonymity said there was some confusion due to a Ministry of External Affairs reply to the Parliament last week.
The response besides citing the chartered flight cost also mentioned the annual maintenance cost of the VVIP aircraft charged by Air India to the tune of around Rs 220 crore and the cost of a hotline facility.
Combining these three led to Modi’s foreign travel cost being pegged in media at over Rs 1400 crore. “This annual maintenance cost of around Rs 220 crore has been paid in UPA’s tenure as well along with the hotline cost and is similar to the price paid now.
This cost is catered for years now from a specific budget grant No 47 of Ministry of Home Affairs that pertains to maintenance cost of VVIP aircraft,” a senior government official told.
The PMO on its website only mentions the chartered cost of flights when it comes to details of expenses of the last three Prime Ministers’ foreign trips.
That said, Modi has spent more days abroad than Singh. While Singh spent 131 days abroad in the first four years of UPA-2 and 161 days abroad in entire UPA-2 tenure, Modi has spent 155 days abroad in his first four years and 182 days abroad as on date.
While Singh made 38 trips abroad in his entire UPA-2 term, Modi is currently on his 43rd foreign trip to Africa.
A senior government official said that can be explained given Modi’s broader foreign policy ambit, going to many countries that no PM had earlier visited or which Manmohan Singh did not visit and Modi’s focus on connect events with Indian diaspora.
Singh was a less frequent traveller in UPA-1 days. He went on only 34 foreign trips in five years as PM in UPA-1, with the total flight cost standing at around Rs 292 crore.
In his first four years as PM in UPA-1, Singh’s flight cost was just `190 crore. In the five years of UPA-2 though, Singh’s foreign trips cost a total of `493 crore.