'No Personal Gain' on Inflated Air Tickets: Kiran Bedi
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Already plagued by internal dissensions, Team Anna plunged into yet another controversy today with allegations against Kiran Bedi that she charged her hosts full fare on air tickets while availing discounts but the activist claimed there was "no personal" gain.

Allegations were levelled against Bedi, a key member of Team Anna, that she used her gallantry medal to get 75 per cent discount on Air India tickets and then submitted inflated invoices to claim full fare from the organiers who have invited her to the function.

It was also alleged that she claimed business class fare even when she was travelling in economy class.

Reacting to the allegations, Bedi told PTI, "business class travel is part of the invitation/entitlement from the event organizers/corporates I'm asked to speak at. Travelling economy is a choice despite entitlement is to ensure that savings remain with the NGO.

"(There is) no personal gain here. Sorry to disappoint detractors trying real hard to find a smoking gun. However, I accept this kind of coverage as a part of the challenges which being in public life poses," she said adding the money "saved" went to NGO India Vision Foundation run by her.

Team Anna has been in turmoil in the recent days following Hazare's flipflop over Prashant Bhushan's advocacy of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and resignation of two prominent Core Committee members P V Rajagopal and Rajinder Singh complaining that decisions were not being taken democratically.

There was also dissention in the team regarding the move to launch an anti-Congress campaign in Hisar bypolls and upcoming Assembly elections without proper discussion in the Core Committee.

"I have nothing to hide. Whatever money came from the organisers of functions, it went to the institution," Bedi said adding she was "not a beneficiary" in this case as all the money she got went into her NGOs.

"I get a lot of money through my lectures and royalty on books. I donate it to the NGOs," she later told reporters.

She also claimed that she herself downgraded her travel and even organisers knew about it. "The person is aware that I am downgrading my travel. Organisers appreciate it. They say we appreciate your gesture that you have saved money for the Foundation."

Bedi said the institutions itself offer business class fare to her for attending their functions.

"When the invitation comes I take a decision whether I travel business class or I downgrade myself. I sometimes choose to do so and travel in economy class. The money so saved by travelling economy goes to the Foundation.

"There is no money which I withdraw. The invitation is to the Foundation, the cheque is to the Foundation, the withdrawal is from the Foundation and saved money is in the Foundation," she said.

She also said when some NGOs invite her and they cannot afford, then she travels to them using the Foundation money.

In recent weeks, sharp divisions have surfaced among Team Anna members. Some members were taken by surprise on Hazare's stand that the Core Committee will decide on the continuance in the team of Prashant Bhushan, who created a controversy by advocating plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.

Hazare has also tweaked his campaign against Congress, saying he will work with Congress across the country if the UPA government brings a strong Lokpal Bill in the Winter session of Parliament and keeps its words on other reforms.

The Gandhian has also decided to wait till the end of Winter Session to embark on a 'yatra' in Uttar Pradesh, contrary to the earlier decision of hitting the streets against Congress in the state soon after Dusshera.

Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh termed the entire episode as a "very serious allegation" and insisted that Bedi should come clean on it.

Stepping the offensive against her, party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, "One colleague of Anna Hazare demands plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, the other says Anna is above Parliament and now the third one is found charging more money from her hosts than she actually paid on her airfare. All of them are now showing their true colours."

Taking a dig at Bedi over allegations that she charged her hosts full fare on air tickets while availing discount, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said unlike Team Anna he cannot pass "ex-parte" judgments on people.

"I don't find myself equipped or able to pronounce a judgment on anybody as quickly as is pronounced on many of us by the movement (led by Anna Hazare) in which Kiran Bedi has a very significant role...I don't find myself in a position to pass ex parte judgments," he said.

Swami Agnivesh, who was in Team Anna's campaign, said Bedi's argument is not very convincing. "I will request her to either file a report with the police or ask the CBI to probe her NGO," he said.

He said misuse of gallantry award discount by mis-stating facts was a serious issue and asked Bedi to submit herself to an independent probe.

He said investigating agencies should also probe the purpose for which her NGO's funds are being spent.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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Oct 22, 2011
12:11 AM
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Anwaar, Dallas
Oct 21, 2011
03:54 PM

Apologists of Congress expect Team Anna to prove that they are 100% honest beyond all reasonable doubts AND prove that Congress/UPA is 100% corrupt beyond all reasonable doubts.

K.Suresh, Bangalore
Oct 21, 2011
03:31 PM

She is of course skating on thin ice. Though this might not be enough to stick to her, especially because it will be viewed as "dirty tricks department" attempt to tarnish members of Team Anna.

If the reimbursement submission was done on "eligibility" and that was also the expectation of the organization/person billed that is fine - if it was the concept of maximum eligibility but to be billed on actuals and paid on actuals then this would be incorrect even if not for personal gains. Both approaches are common - so it really ought to be the organization that was billed that can clairfy.

Anyways, the Bhusans, Bedi and Kejriwal must expect the weight of the state will be falling on them, even more because Anna they do not want to touch directly (once burnt twice shy), these guys are the active/visible face of the team.

The others who keep waffling and being wishy washy about "means" don't understand the nature of the fight they are in. It will be dirty - you are trying to get a law passed that is most detrimental to those that need to pass it.

Arun Maheshwari, Bangalore
Oct 21, 2011
01:57 PM

"I will request her to either file a report with the police or ask the CBI to probe her NGO,"

What is the locus standi of Agnivesh to ask CBI to probe ? Is he a minister, an extraconstitutional authrotity or a member of the G family to do that ?

K.Suresh, Bangalore
Oct 21, 2011
01:10 PM

While Bedi's statement seems reasonable, she should consider getting an independent auditor to audit her travel accounts and certify their authenticity.

Anwaar, Dallas
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