Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal’s single round trip to Haryana in June this year using a chartered aircraft, and then a helicopter, cost just over Rs 46 lakh, exceeding total tour expenses incurred over five years by his predecessor S C Jamir, an RTI reply from the Governor’s Secretariat reveals. The expense is four times the Raj Bhavan’s current annual budget for the Governor’s travel of Rs 11 lakh, the Raj Bhavan stated in response to the RTI filed by The Indian Express.
The trip had prior approval from Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Odisha government, the response stated. Copies of the letters from both authorities, accessed by The Indian Express, do not mention reasons for approving the trip. The RTI response reveals that the total tour expenses of the previous Odisha Governor, Jamir, between April 2013 and March 2018 was around Rs 30.72 lakh. The travel expense incurred by Jamir’s predecessor, Muralidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, from August 2007 to March 2013 was Rs 51.21 lakh, it stated.
The Raj Bhavan also stated that as Governor, Jamir and Bhandare travelled by commercial passenger airlines on “all tours”. According to the Governor’s Secretariat, “Travel expenses of the Governor of Odisha outside the state are paid from the Tour Head, Charged Budgetary Provision of Government of Odisha.” In July, The Indian Express had reported on a letter from the Odisha government to the Governor’s office, seeking explanation about a trip to Haryana that cost nearly Rs 46 lakh.
The letter from the General Administration Department, under the purview of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, mentioned two separate invoices from June: one for a chartered jet used for a round trip to Delhi, and a helicopter to visit Sirsa in Haryana. According to the letter, the chartered flight cost Rs 41.18 lakh and the helicopter Rs 5 lakh.
The letter asked for reasons for additionally hiring a helicopter, in deviation of the approved travel schedule through a chartered plane.
The day after the report appeared, Odisha Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi met Governor Lal and apologised for the letter. Sources in Raj Bhavan said that Lal, a senior BJP leader from Haryana, had requested a chartered aircraft for a “special tour”, which was approved by the state government and the President’s office.
“The chartered plane was unable to land in Sirsa, for which the service provider offered a helicopter from Delhi at an additional Rs 5 lakh,” a senior official in Raj Bhawan said, referring to the deviation in the approved trip. Ganeshi Lal was appointed Governor in May this year, after Jamir completed his tenure on March 21.
Lal was earlier president of the BJP’s national disciplinary committee. He has earlier been president of the BJP’s Haryana unit, an MLA, and a state minister.