Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Lavasa has written to the Cabinet Secretary to make foreign travel for bureaucrats easier. Lavasa has said that the mandatory system of clearance for foreign travel, which is issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), should be revised as the present system is “dilatory”. The letter has been forwarded by the Cabinet Secretariat to the MEA, which oversees both official and personal travel plans of government representatives.
Sources in the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that Lavasa wrote the letter on June 16 this year. On August 6, the Cabinet Secretariat sent a reminder to the MEA, asking it to examine the letter and revert before August 14. This is not the first time Lavasa has raised the issue — he had also spoken about it during a meeting of secretaries with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 4.
Government sources said that similar letters have been sent by at least two other secretaries — from the Finance Ministry and the Commerce Ministry — to the MEA in the past, but the ministry told one of them that the clearance system cannot be changed. Sources said that both these secretaries are frequent flyers.
According to sources, Lavasa wrote that the MEA should prepare a list of countries with which India shares “sensitive” relations, and officers should be made to take political clearance for travelling to those countries only. He also suggested that there should be no need for clearance if the officers are going to participate in bilateral talks, foreign training or to countries with which India has constituted joint working groups, sources said.
Lavasa also wrote that he had raised the issue in the June 4 meeting, sources said. He further wrote that due to the necessity of “political clearance”, several foreign travel plans are delayed and many officers have to cancel their trips because they are unable to get clearance on time, sources said. According to foreign deputation guidelines, the competent authorities accept foreign travel proposals from bureaucrats only if the political clearance from the MEA is enclosed. MPs do not require such a clearance for personal foreign trips.
However, according to the information received from the MEA under the RTI Act, the ministry cleared 276 foreign travel proposals of secretaries and officers of their rank till July 15 this year. Clearance was “denied” in only one case, the RTI revealed.