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Patil sets record as frequent flyer President

New Delhi, Mar 25 (PTI) 1:23 IST
President Pratibha Patil's wanderlust has cost the public exchequer a whopping Rs 205 crore on her foreign visits, surpassing the record of all her predecessors.

Since assuming office as the country's first woman President in July 2007, Patil has undertaken 12 foreign trips covering 22 countries across four continents. She has four more months to go for 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 Patil, mostly accompanied by her 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 Ministry of External Affairs on accommodation, local travel, daily Allowance and "miscellaneous" expenses, according to the information provided by the ministry.

The RTI applications were filed over a period of three years during which the authorities concerned showed great reluctance to reveal information.

The Ministry of Defence, which pays Air India for use of chartered aircraft by the President, fended off RTI queries and provided little information.

Air India has billed the Defence Ministry for over Rs 169 crore on account of aircraft used by Patil. Of this, the Ministry has paid nearly Rs 153 crore, leaving unpaid bills of over Rs 16 crore. Patil has so far visited Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bhutan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Spain, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, the UK, Cyprus, China, Laos, Cambodia, the UAE, Syria, Mauritius, South Korea, Switzerland and Austria spending a total of 79 days abroad.
Her immediate predecessor Dr A P J Abdul Kalam undertook seven trips to 17 countries during his five-year tenure. Before that, K R Narayanan covered 10 countries in six trips and S D Sharma 16 countries in four trips.

Details of other Presidents are not available but its unlikely that Patil's record of foreign travel is matched by any of her predecessors.

Former President Kalam remained on foreign trips for 47 days during his tenure covering the UAE (twice), Sudan, Bulgaria, Tanzania, South Africa, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea, Myanmar, Mauritius, France and Greece.

His predecessor Narayanan visited Peru, Brazil, Nepal, Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg, Turkey, Germany, France and China in his six trips abroad in 46 days of his tenure.

Sharma, who was President between 1992-97, also covered 16 countries in four trips which included Ukraine, Turkey, Hungary, the UK, Bulgaria, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Oman, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Italy. He remained on these trips for 47 days of his five-years tenure.

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