A controversy has arisen over the expenditure incurred by the government of India on the foreign travels of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress.
Mrs Gandhi is a member of the Lok Sabha and the head of the Congress. In either of these capacities, she often travels inside India as well as abroad. In addition to being an MP, she is also the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister. By virtue of that, protecting her from any threat to her physical security, whether in India or abroad, is the responsibility of the Special Protection Group (SPG) of the Cabinet Secretariat. She is what is called an SPG protectee and is covered under the SPG Act.
Providing SPG protection to her during her travels involves two responsibilities-- deputing a team of close-proximity guards of the SPG to protect her at her place of stay and during her movements and liaising with the local security authorities.
The SPG would have been authorised to incur the following expenditure on her foreign travels:
These are legitimate items of expenditure and nobody can object to it. Does the public have a right to know this expenditure? Yes it has, but not the details of the break-up as that could involve revealing details regarding the number of close proximity guards accompanying her while she travels abroad and the kind of special protection vehicles she uses. These details should not be revealed in the interest of her security.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi faces a high degree of threat to her physical security from the remnants of the Khalistani terrorists and the overseas sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The incident in London on the night of September 30, 2012, in which a senior retired officer of the Army, who had played a role in Operation Blue Star in the Amritsar Golden Temple in 1984, was attacked by as yet unidentified elements, indicates the danger and possibility of such threats being still alive.
The SPG unit responsible for her protection cannot afford to take risks with her security. Whatever, in their assessment, needs to be done for her security has to be done and the necessary expenditure incurred.
There is also a non-security related expenditure on her travels abroad. This would consist of the expenditure on her air travel and hotel stay and medical treatment. There would be no dilution of her security by revealing these details. The government should not make an unnecessary issue of revealing them. The credibility of the government, the Congress and Mrs Sonia Gandhi would go up if the government takes the initiative in revealing them.
In the case of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who is an SPG protectee, the drill is clearly laid down. When the Chief Minister of a state travels abroad, whether on private or official duty, the drill for his or her security, is not clearly laid down in matters such as under what head the expenditure on the security will be incurred, who will handle the security liaison with the local security agencies and what precautions are to be taken to prevent the penetration of the security party by the foreign agencies.
For example, Mr Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, paid a high profile visit to China with an entourage. From the point of view of our national security, China is a sensitive country. Who handled the security aspect of the visit? Who handled the liaison with the Chinese security agencies? Were the government of India and the Intelligence Bureau kept in the picture regarding any interactions with the Chinese security agencies in connection with Mr Modi’s visit? What expenditure was incurred on Mr Modi’s security? How and under which head it was met? Was a report sent to the Intelligence Bureau on Mr Modi’s return on all contacts with the Chinese security agencies for arranging for his security?
The credibility of the BJP and Mr Modi will go up if he and his government shares these details with the public.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter @SORBONNE75
Sri Raman is full of advice for Congress and Sonia about how to treat Modi's charges and in an earlier piece how Sri Vadra should go about blunting Sri Kejriwal's allegations. But the Congress by deploying legal/ministerisl luminaries for the defense of Sonia as well as Vadra, is making a mess of the issues involved.Sometime back sri.Raman was downright abusive of Modi developing a personality cult. When it comes to the Gandhi dynasty he is full of concern as if they are going to be ruling India for decades to come!! An RAW man will always be a loyalist .Here is some advice for Raman,; stick to assessing terrorism in India in company with various "terrorism editors" which would be a mutual support group as the work involves assessing terroris acts After They Occur !!
I wonder if anyone has filed a request under RTI seeking disclosure of the amount spent on "official" trips to Zurich by public servants other than diplomatic staff. No names, no dates, no details, no classified information, just how much it cost the aam aadmi.
The best response to this article (according to me) are from these sites:
Mr Raman please come up with a better defence for Sonia's undeclared foreign trips and also her globe trotting (but not informing Lok Sabha Secratariot) son Rahul Gandhi's foreign jaunts.
mr raman, the article smells of pro sonia from the word go.. see, most of outlook articles are biased but ushud atleast know how to ambush ur biasness with clever choice of words..by the way.. unless u answer modis questions u dont have to ask modi questions
Raman has gone completely offtrack on this analysis. It would have been better if we had shown what the rule book says and where the rule book was violated rather than giving his subjective opinion.
It would have been better if he has dealt with the following questions:-
1. Who in India is eligible to get treated abroad at tax payers expense?
2. if the treatment is available in India, then under what conditions can such a person go abroad for treatment?
3. Is there a monetary limit for such expenses including cost of security?
4. What is the process by which an eligible citizen can apply for such treatment?
5. Who is the approving authority?
6. Under which account head should all the expenses be booked?
7. What is the annual budget for that account head?
He should have answered these questions and then should have left to the reader to decide.
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