NEW DELHI: President Prati­bha Patil’s tenure may have been largely lacklustre compared to her predecessors like A P J Abdul Kalam. But she has surpassed her forerunners on one account­—number of foreign trips undertaken, which cost the public excheq­uer a whopping `205 crore.
The country’s first woman President, Patil has undertaken 12 foreign trips covering 22 countries across four continents since assuming office in July 2007, according to answers given to a series of RTI applications, which were filed over three years.
Patil has so far visited Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bhutan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Spain, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, the UK, Cyprus, China, Laos, Cambodia, the UAE, Syria, Mauritius, South Korea, Switzerland and Austria, spending a total of 79 days abroad.
She has four more months to go in her five-year tenure and is slated to make a trip to South Africa. Her successor is to be elected in June.
According to the RTI, Air India incurred over `169 crore, billed to the Defence Ministry, on use of chartered aircraft—always a Boeing 747-400—on Patil’s foreign visits, mostly accompanied by family members. A Bhutan visit was by a smaller jet. The Ministry has paid AI nearly `153 crore, leaving unpaid bills of about `16 crore.
A further sum of `36 crore has been incurred by the Ministry of External Affairs on accommodation, local travel, daily allowance and “miscellaneous” expenses, according to information provided by it.
Kalam, as President, had taken seven trips to 17 countr­ies over a total period of 47 days. Before that, K R Nar­ayanan visited 10 countries in six trips over 46 days. S D Sharma travell­ed to 16 countries in four trips of 47 days.