Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting S Jagathrakshakan,who is facing heat for alleged involvement in a company allotted a coal block,has one distinction among Union ministers. Since he took oath,the DMK leader has made 24 personal foreign trips and spent 253 days abroad the highest among the 49 Union ministers to have made personal trips.
This data,which excludes travel time,shows that on an average,Jagathrakshakan was abroad on personal trip every fourth day.
Jagathrakshakan is accused of involvement in a company that was awarded a coal block in 2007 despite the fact that it had no track record in the sector. Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday rejected demand for a probe against him,saying there has to be proof of undue influence.
The Indian Express received details of Jagathrakshakans foreign trips as part of a Right to Information (RTI) reply from the PMO and Ministry of External Affairs. The RTI sought to know which of the 75 Union ministers,barring the prime minister,had received clearance for foreign trips between June 2009 and May 15,2012. There is a possibility that in some cases,the ministers may have not actually made the trip.
The RTI reply shows that Jagathrakshakan is among ministers to have not made any official foreign trip during his stint but all in his personal capacity. The Indian Express made repeated attempts to contact the minister without any success.
France,Malaysia,Thailand,Singapore,Hong Kong,Indonasia,United Kingdom,United Arab Emirates,USA and Australia were among Jagathrakshakans favourite destinations. If the January 30,2010,clearance for a five-day visit to the UK was the first foreign trip for which he got a nod,the last such clearance was in March-April 2012 for a 23-day trip to the UAE.
Apart from Jagathrakshakan,Praful Patel,D Napolean and Sharad Pawar have made the most personal trips abroad. Together,the 49 Union ministers have made 270 personal trips abroad,adding up to 2,062 days.
Pawars private secretary Prakash Lokhande insisted the Agriculture Ministers trips hadnt hampered any official work. The minister is always available to officers on phone,internet and fax and such other modes of communication. At no point of time any work or file has been delayed due to his absence from the headquarters.
Most of Pawars personal trips,in fact,were in his capacity as vice-president and later president of the ICC and also as chairman of the Central Organising Committee of the World Cup 2011. These trips were not undertaken on government account and were of short duration.