Shamed, Krishna forgoes IAF's special aircraft

Shamed, Krishna forgoes IAF's special aircraft


External Affairs Minister S M Krishna

Krishna on Sunday announced that he would henceforth not use the government’s special aircraft to fly abroad and would rather travel economy class on commercial airliners. Pawar on Sunday flew economy class from Mumbai to Delhi on a private carrier.

It was Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s public appeal to Krishna and his deputy Shashi Tharoor to leave their five-star hotel accommodation that had set the UPA Government’s austerity agenda last week. Mukherjee’s call had come nearly three weeks after Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi told a Congress Working Committee meet that party and government functionaries should be austere in private and public life to reflect the concern for the underprivileged people, particularly the drought-hit.

Pawar is believed to be among those who had protested against the austerity measures, particularly the finance minister’s suggestion that Union ministers should avoid flying premium class.

In a meeting of the Cabinet last Thursday, Pawar reportedly pointed out it would be difficult for him to study files and do official work while flying economy class.

But the two high-profile ministers fell in line on Sunday. Krishna’s tryst with austerity will begin immediately. He will travel to Turkmenistan and Belarus next Tuesday.

He was supposed to fly on the Indian Air Force Embraer jet with a delegation of about six Ministry of External Affairs officials. To drive home his commitment to austerity, Krishna declared he would travel economy class with only three officials. “I will go by commercial flights,” he said.

By virtue of the office they occupy, the home, defence and external affairs ministers are entitled to fly on IAF’s Embraer jets.

Krishna’s decision came a day after Mukherjee himself practised what he preached. The finance minister travelled from Delhi to Kolkata in economy class on the low-cost carrier SpiceJet and returned to Delhi in the same class on an Air India flight.

Pawar was in Mumbai to oversee the Nationalist Congress Party’s preparations for the forthcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra. Like Mukherjee, he returned to Delhi flying economy class on Kingfisher Airlines.

Union Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath has cancelled her tour to New York. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad asked officials to cut down on foreign and domestic travel. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal had earlier cancelled a goodwill trip with around 12 MPs to Greece and Egypt, destinations to which he was to lead the delegation.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who said her ministry had cut down on foreign travels by officials by 50 per cent and discouraged five-star hotel stay, said she had practised austerity for decades.

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