New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil's foreign travel 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 she is slated to make a trip to South Africa later this year.
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 about 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.
So while Patil has gone on 12 foreign trips, her immediate predecessor Dr A P J Abdul Kalam undertook seven trips to 17 countries for 47 days during his five-year tenure.
Before that, K R Narayanan covered 10 countries in six trips spending 46 days of his tenure out of the country.
S D Sharma travelled to 16 countries in four trips. He remained on these trips for 47 days of his five-year tenure.