Prime Minister’s austerity call makes three ministers cancel trips(Leads)

June 6th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s call on the government to observe austerity in the wake of the oil price hike, three of his cabinet ministers Friday announced cancellations of their trips to foreign countries. While the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) did not give approval to Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to travel to the US and Norway, Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni and Shipping and Surface and Transport Minister T.R. Baalu cancelled their trips citing the government’s austerity measures.

Manmohan Singh had on Thursday written to all his ministers asking them to cut down on foreign travel and lavish spending in the wake of the unprecedented rise in oil prices, saying “it was a moral duty to cut out all wasteful expenditure in our own establishment.”

The first minister to be affected by the government’s austerity drive was Aiyar, who was scheduled to go on a 13-day trip to the US and Norway, but who was asked to cancel his visit. Aiyar was expected to begin his trip May 31.

On Friday, two ministers on their own announced cancellations of their plans. T.R. Baalu, who was scheduled to go to attend a seminar in Finland, and Ambika Soni, who was supposed to visit San Francisco and Los Angeles from June 21 to 28 to attend the World Kuchipudi Dance Festival and the American Association of Physicians of India Origin (AAPI) annual convention.

Though there were reports that both Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram and Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Depora have also cancelled their foreign trips, it was later made clear that they had turned down invitations even before the prime minister’s austerity call.

“There have been reports in certain sections of the press/TV channels that the Finance Minister has cancelled his trip to Stanford University, scheduled for June 5 and 6 after receiving the Prime Minister’s letter regarding austerity measures. It is pointed out that Finance Minister had earlier only tentatively accepted the invitation, and he had declined the invitation almost ten days ago,” a statement issued here by the finance ministry said.

Officials in the petroleum ministry said Deora was to attend the G-8 meeting in Tokyo next month and was supposed to meet oil ministers of some countries. But the minister has decided not to go.

The prime minister had written the letter a day after the government hiked petrol and diesel prices by Rs 5 and Rs 3 a litre and that of cooking gas by Rs 50 a cylinder, while sparing the poor man’s cooking medium kerosene from any increase.

In his letter, he had said : “I am, therefore, writing to ask you to severely curtail expenditure on air travel, particularly foreign travel, except in cases where it is deemed to be absolutely necessary,” he emphasized.

“This economy may be made applicable immediately for your own self and also for all senior functionaries in your ministry.”

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