According to an RTI reply received by Anil Galgali, the MMRDA has spent Rs4.29 crore on air travels, majority for study tours of ministers and bureaucrats
The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has spent almost Rs4.29 crore on air travel, a major chunk of which comprises 'study tours' of ministers, bureaucrats and even personal assistant (PA)'s of ministers, reveals a Right to Information (RTI) reply.
According to a reply received by RTI activist Anil Galgali, between 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2014, MMRDA spent Rs1.42 crore on domestic air travel on 626 occasions like meetings, study tours or other reasons. MMRDA, which is executing developmental projects worth thousands of crores in the MMR region comprising of Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Palghar and Raigad districts, also spent Rs2.86 crore for international travel for 39 trips.
Those who went on foreign trips through MMRDA include the Authority officials, chief ministers, ministers, chief secretary, secretary for urban development, BMC commissioner, GM of BEST and PAs of ministers.
MMRDA's highest tour expenses of Rs49.18 lakh was recorded in the 14-days study tour to Malaysia, China, Canada, US and Japan. The then ministers of State Rajesh Tope, Sunil Deshmukh, Rajendra Shingne, UD Secretary Ramanand Tiwari and Sanjay Ubale, BEST GM Swadheen Kshatriya, Dy Secretary Sudhakar Nagnure, Dr T Chandrashekhar, PRK Murthy, and PA to UD MOS CS Thorat went on this study tour.
After this a tour to Switzerland, Sweden, France and Germany was undertaken by MOS Rajesh Tope, Mumbai Mayor Shubha Raul, Secretary to CM CS Sangitrao, Dy Secretary Suresh Kakani, Shankar Deshpande and also political corporators, Ashish Shelar and Rajesh Singh, this study tour costed Rs49.08 lakh on air tickets only and was undertaken to study urban planning, traffic and transportation and Urban development, the RTI reply reveals.
Similarly Chief Minister Ashok Chavan along with Chief Secretary JP Dange, PA Nitin Kareer and Principal Secretary UD TC Benjamin went on a 10 days trip to US, Malaysia and Singapore between 12th June and 21 June 2010. This tour cost the MMRDA a whopping Rs43.34 lakh and was undertaken to attend desalination plant, monorail plan inspection, city and urban planning tour.
MMRDA Commissioner Rahul Asthana and Additional Commissioner Ashwini Bhide's three day trip to London (24th to 26 November 2011 cost Rs20.35 lakh and was undertaken to attend a conference on Infrastructural Finance.
Apart from this a trip to Washington and London was organised as study tour as well as attending the Transport Forum and Study Tour costing Rs19.90 lakh comprising of Principal Secretary UD Benjamin, Additional Commissioner (MMRDA) Ashwini Bhide, SVR Srinivasan and PRK Murthy.
MMRDA Commissioner Ajit Warty and MUTP Project Director UPS Madan undertook an eight day trip to Washington for MUTP project coordination and understandings along with UD Principal Secretary Ramanand Tiwari in 2002 costing Rs5.74 lakh.
Afterwards a study trip of 14 days was undertaken to Kuala Lampur, Bangkok and Singapore costing Rs7.66 lakh comprising of Dr T Chandrashekhar, PRK Murthy, UD Principal Secretary Ramanand Tiwari & Ex MMRDA Commissioner AK Mago. There were also singular trips undertaken by Ratnakar Gaikwad (London), Rahul Asthana (Italy, Greece, Osaka), SVR Srinivasan (London), Dilip Kawathkar (Frankfurt), Smt Vijayalakshmi (US), SB Pardeshi (Rotterdam), Uma Adusumili (Japan), AR Wankhede (China, Hongkong), RC Dohore (China, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia), Sharad Varaskar (Seoul, Korea). The trips by these officials from the finance, legal and technical advisers with study tour for noise barriers and better air quality raise suspicions.
Galgali said, "MMRDA Commissioners have undertaken and organised foreign jaunts for persons not connected to MMRDA as if a village feast is generally organised. Ministers and officers not connected with MMRDA along with their PA's too have enjoyed this largess".
Galgali has sent a letter to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadanavis and MMRDA Commissioner UPS Madan demanding an inquiry on the foreign trips undertaken.
"In the era of IT, there are services like Video conferencing technology being ignored in MMRDA, which is widely utilised by corporates to save valuable time and money, why is such options not utilized by MMRDA for domestic and international meetings?" Galgali said.