Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Secrecy over Sonia Gandhi's foreign travel

In a democracy there can be no secrecy about expenditure from government (public) funds except if it relates to defence matters. More so if it relates to expenditure for an individual. Even in the absence of Right to Information, the government has a duty to be transparent on this issue.

The government has been dragging ite feet without replying to an RTI application on expenditure incurred by the government on Sonia Gandhi's foreign travel. This relates not only to travel for medical purpose, but also to her other travels in the past eight years. Norms of good governance demand that even details of medical expenditure (including the nature of disease) should be disclosed if public money is used. Such expenditure may not be unlawful. But being cagey about disclosure is symptomatic of gross misgovernance and utter disregard for democratic norms.

As in any other issue, PMO has covered itself with shame by misdirecting the RTI application hither and thither. Manmohan Singh has demeaned his office beyond belief.

Update: The Hindu in an editorial on 5th Oct., says:

"An individual’s medical treatment is private information and, as the CIC has correctly pointed out, any personal expenditure on it cannot be the subject matter of an RTI application. But Ms Gandhi, as Chairperson of the UPA and the National Advisory Council, is a public figure and the degree of secrecy surrounding her medical condition is unusual for a democracy. While her privacy, like the privacy of all citizens, is paramount, the Congress high command should realise it is precisely the absence of any authoritative information that provides fertile ground for rumours and canards to spread."

It is a pity that the Congress party nurtured by doyens like the Mahatma has become politically paranoid and ethically bankrupt. 

Update on 6th October: PMO has clarified that government has spent only Rs.3 lacs and that too on only one travel abroad. Why did the PMO wait so long to clarify? PMO's credibility is so low that nobody believes what it says. Doesn't Sonia Gandhi enjoy the status of a Cabinet Minister and therefore isn't it expected that her travel bills are borne by the government?

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