President's Goa visit was official, not private: RTI documents

President's Goa visit was official, not private: RTI documents

Documents sourced from the state protocol department under the RTI Act by advocate Aires Rodrigues show that the state government paid Rs.20,000 for boat rides, para-sailing and jet ski rides for the president and some select members of her entourage. It also spent Rs.4,400 on flowers and bouquets offered to India's first woman president.

“The entire trip cost the government of Goa Rs.14.18 lakh. Why was this official trip masked as a private visit by the president? According to the RTI documents, the Goa government was informed about the president's visit only two days before she landed here on January 3,” Rodrigues said.

“President Patil was on a private holiday to Goa. Her visit was sought to be shown as official so that the expenditure could be charged to the state exchequer,” Rodrigues claimed.

He asked the authorities to explain “what was the official purpose of President Pratibha Patil's four-day visit to Goa”.

Giving a break-up of the expenses, he said that while Rs.3,20,250 was spent on lodging and boarding expenses at Cidade de Goa for the members of the president's entourage, a further sum of Rs.1,29,915 was spent on those housed at the Goa International Centre, a branch of the India International Centre, New Delhi.

A total of Rs.6,23,188 was spent on vehicles hired from the Goa Tourism Development Corporation and Rs.2,01,220 was spent on the lunch and visit by the president to Taj Exotica at Benaulim Jan 4.

The lunch hosted Jan 6 by Chief Minister Digambar Kamat at Cidade de Goa in honour of President Patil cost the exchequer Rs.1,19,999.

Incidentally, the president courted controversy after photojournalists captured images of the sari-clad president sunning herself on a beach bed in the midst of foreign tourists clad only in swimwear at the Benaulim beach. The photographs were subsequently published in local newspapers.

Three photographers were summoned by the police for taking the photographs, which had invited the ire of the president. Police had claimed that the visit was private and the photographs were a “breach of protocol”.

Officials of the state protocol department were unavailable for comment.

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