Even though Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal can’t hire a charter plane for official business unless he is inspecting an accident site, website Newslaundry has reported that his ministry has frequently been bending rules while arranging charter flights for Goyal and his family since he assumed the railways portfolio in September 2017.
Here are some startling takeaways about how the nation’s exchequer accommodates Piyush Goyal’s costly travel choices, from the Newlaundry report:
- On April 2, 2018, Goyal travelled to Latur, Maharashtra to inaugurate a coach factory. En route, he first went via the Shani mandir in Shani Shingnapur, the Sai Baba mandir at Shirdi and the temple of Maa Bhawani in Tuljapur. The mode of travel was by chartered plane, even though there was no inspection of an accident site to be done.The cost of this elongated chartered flight alone reportedly cost the exchequer ₹25.50 lakh!
- Piyush Goyal took a chartered plane to Jodhpur to flag off the Humsafar Jodhpur-Bandra Express. This trip cost taxpayers a little over ₹10 lakh
- High-flying minister Piyush Goyal’s office buys two to three air tickets for the same destination on a given day just to ensure that Goyal doesn’t miss his flight. When Goyal had to travel to Bengaluru on March 8, 2018, his staff reportedly booked two flights from Bengaluru to Delhi on March 8 at a total cost of ₹88,013! The minister travelled by one, and the other ticket was either cancelled or simply wasted
- The very next day, Goyal was planning to fly to Mumbai, but the staff wasn’t sure when would he fly back to Delhi. So, they booked two flights, one for March 11 and one for March 12, at a total cost of ₹1,06,532
- On March 23, Piyush’s staff booked four air tickets for the minister from Delhi to Lucknow at a total cost of ₹70,109
- Goyal undertook a three-day work visit to Belagavi, Karnataka in February, 2018. He again took a chartered plane. Now chartered planes charge anything between ₹2 lakh and ₹3 lakh per hour just to remain parked, as waiting charge. According to the schedule, he arrived at Belagavi at 10 am on February 10. The charter plane remained parked till 8.15 pm on February 11, and then it took off to Delhi, his final destination. What was the cost to the taxpayer? ₹13 lakh.
- The Railways funded as many as 1,023 air trips by private airlines for Piyush Goyal, his fellow ministers, Rajen Gohain and Manoj Sinha and his predecessor Suresh Prabhu, ministers’ relatives, attendants, companions and their personal staff, from 2016 till date.
- Goyal travelled over 80 times by private airlines in less than a year and his predecessor Suresh Prabhu took private airline flights 105 times during his stint as Railways Minister. His wife Uma Prabhu also travelled on some occasions.
- Goyal’s fellow ministers seem to be busier than him. Minister of State Rajen Gohain travelled 177 times by private airlines. This also includes occasional travel by his wife Rita Gohain, his six children Dev, Debrata, Varun, Meghna, Shusmita and Antra. Manoj Sinha billed for 109 private flights, and on occasions, his wife Neelam Sinha also travelled along with him.
Newslaundry asked Goyal—who also happens to be the interim Finance Minister and Coal Minister—if he had hired charter planes on account of Finance and Coal Ministry work too. However, the minister did not reply to Newslaundry’s queries, the report added.