Early in June this year, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi took off for London and her native Italy as political heat from civil society activists over black money and corruption soared in the Capital. In mid-June, Congress General Secretary and MP Rahul Gandhiushered in his 41st birthday in London and topped up with a Swiss holiday. Both Sonia and Rahul’s trips were widely documented in the media but the Lok Sabha secretariat has no information on them. It’s common courtesy for MPs to inform the secretariat about trips abroad, even if they are of a personal nature. But since June 2004, the month UPA came to power, the Congress president and her son have not bothered to inform the secretariat about any of their foreign trips.
| Frequent Fliers
MPs who have gone abroad on private trips the mostMahmood A. Madani, RLD
N.K. Singh, JD(U)
Badruddin Ajmal, AIUDF
Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M)
When India Todayfiled an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the Lok Sabha secretariat asking for details of personal foreign travel made by MPs since the 14th Lok Sabha, it furnished relevant information for lawmakers other than the Gandhis. The reply from Harish Chander, Deputy Secretary, Lok Sabha, was, “This secretariat attends to work relating to official visits of Indian parliamentary delegations going abroad and maintains record of foreign travel of members of the Lok Sabha in their personal capacity if such travel is intimated by them to the Speaker’s office.” India Today filed another RTI query specifically asking how many intimations/requests the Lok Sabha secretariat received regarding the foreign travels of Sonia and Rahul during the 14th and 15th Lok Sabhas. The response of K. Sona, under secretary, Lok Sabha, on July 4 was: “Nil.”
Even official foreign travel details of the Gandhis are a mystery. In February 2010, Hisar-based activist Ramesh Kumar filed an RTI query with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for details of foreign travel made by Sonia Gandhi and followed it up with a second appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC). PMO and Cabinet secretariat representatives told CIC that they had forwarded the query to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The Cabinet secretariat told Kumar on July 8, 2011 that his query has been forwarded to the National Advisory Council’s (NAC) Central Public Information Officer and PMO. In turn, NAC said it didn’t have the details.
“It is disturbing that institutions that run the government have no knowledge of the authority that can furnish details of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign travel,” says Kumar.