UT Adviser Dharam Pal and Home Secretary Nitin Yadav have come under scrutiny for their significant expenses on official tours over the last two years from 2021. According to an RTI filed by UT resident RK Garg and shared with The Indian Express, the expenses run into several lakhs.
Dharam Pal’s travel expenses for 121 days amounted to a staggering 16 lakh, while Home Secretary Nitin Yadav spent Rs 6 lakh on a few visits, mostly to Delhi, during the same period. Both officials claim that these trips were essential to address pending issues in UT or to attend conferences and meetings.
Despite attempts to seek clarification from Dharam Pal, he did not respond to The Indian Express. However, the UT administration’s spokesperson defended the trips, stating that all of them were official and necessary. Yadav also remained unresponsive to queries.
In July 2021, Dharam Pal visited Delhi twice, incurring a total cost of Rs 47,767, mainly for meetings and discussions related to UT. In August, he made two more trips to Delhi, spending Rs 52,702 for six days. September was even more expensive, with a bill nearing one lakh for a three-day trip, including attendance at a meeting chaired by the minister of state for Science and Technology.
The expenses continued through the months, with November proving to be particularly costly with two visits to Delhi costing Rs 75,952. Despite the availability of work-from-home and virtual meetings, Dharam Pal continued to make frequent and expensive trips.
Baljinder Singh Bittu, Chairman of the Federation of Sectors Welfare Associations of Chandigarh (FOSWAC), expressed concern over the misuse of public funds and questioned the necessity of these trips.
While there were a few cost-effective visits, such as the one to Shimla in December 2021 costing Rs 544, other trips, like the five-day visit to Delhi in April 2022, cost as much as Rs 98,804.
Despite the criticism and rising expenses, both officials defended their actions as necessary for addressing the issues of UT. The public continues to question the appropriateness of such expenses, especially in a time when virtual communication options are widely available.
An expensive trip to Tirupati
During the month of August, the adviser embarked on a four-day visit to Tirupati, which was notably marked by lavish expenditures, amounting to a staggering sum of Rs 1.21 lakh. Preceding this trip, in the same month, the adviser had undertaken a four-day tour to Delhi, which incurred expenses of Rs 46,433.
Surging Expenses in September: Adviser’s Four-day Delhi Tour Costs Rs 60,775
In September, the costs escalated further as the adviser’s four-day tour to Delhi resulted in an expenditure of Rs 60,775.
October Proves to be Pricy: Nine-day Trip Incurs Rs 1,59,147 Expense
In October, the expenses were significantly high as the adviser embarked on a nine-day journey to Delhi and Rajkot. The trip was stated to be for attending a conclave inaugurated by the prime minister at the Indian Urban Housing Conclave in Rajkot. The total expenses for this trip reached Rs 1,59,147, comprising Rs 1,36,745 for the main travel and an additional Rs 22,402.
Continuing Expenses: Return to Delhi Costs Rs 32,955
Merely five days after returning from the previous trip, Dharam Pal was once again in Delhi, this time to attend a function on violence against women. The cost of this visit to the exchequer was Rs 32,955.
December Travel: Two Trips to Delhi Totaling Rs 89,882
The month of December was also marked by substantial expenses, with the adviser making two trips to Delhi. The purposes of these trips were to pursue important pending issues of the UT administration in the Ministry of Home Affairs and other ministries. The cumulative cost for these two trips amounted to Rs 89,882.
Extravagant January: Two Back-to-back Eight-day Tours Totaling Rs 96,665
The extravagance continued into the new year, with January 2023 witnessing two back-to-back eight-day tours to Delhi. The total expenses for these tours were a little less than a lakh, at Rs 96,665.
Additional Trips for Important Meetings: Rs 1,03,201 Expense Incurred
According to the information obtained through the RTI reply, the adviser made three more trips. These trips were to attend the third session of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, a DRPC grant meeting, and a discussion on pending issues of the UT. The total expense for these additional trips amounted to Rs 1,03,201.
Home secretary not far behind
Home Secretary Nitin Yadav incurred an expenditure of Rs 6.84 lakh during his official tours from 2021 to early 2023, according to recent reports. Despite a lower frequency of trips, the expenses on his daily activities were significantly high, with a single day in Delhi amounting to approximately Rs 17,000.
One of the major expenses during this period was a three-day trip to Delhi for the “Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation 2.0” in September 2021, which cost him Rs 43,740. However, this expense was overshadowed by the Rs 90,987 spent during a four-day visit to attend the “All India Conference of Law Ministers and Law Secretaries of all UTs” and the “Civil Aviation Ministers Conference of States/UTs” in October 2021.
Further scrutiny of the revealed data shows that Yadav’s trip to Surajkund from October 26 to October 29, 2021, to attend the “Chintan Shivir – a conference of union home minister on internal security, policing, civil defence, and home guards,” incurred an expense of Rs 47,147.
Other trips during the year also added to the expenses, including a two-day trip in February 2021 costing Rs 35,695, another one in November amounting to Rs 36,899, and a two-day tour to Gurgaon on July 5, 2022, which proved to be surprisingly expensive with a cost of Rs 48,364 (Rs 24,000 per day).
Notably, two subsequent trips to Delhi in September and October, one lasting four days and the other two days, together resulted in an astonishing expenditure of Rs 1.03 lakh from the exchequer.
In response to the revelations, an individual named Garg, who had filed the RTI, emphasized the urgent need for auditing these expenses incurred by officials during such trips. He advocated for setting a ceiling on the maximum amount an official can spend, especially considering India’s financial constraints, where every penny of public money should be accounted for.
This disclosure has sparked discussions about the importance of transparency and accountability in public spending and has raised concerns about the necessity and cost-effectiveness of such official tours.