Kerala ministers in ‘frequent flier club’, says opposition member

Thiruvananthapuram, April 6 (IANS) The Kerala Congress, an ally of the Left opposition, Saturday alleged that given the frequency of foreign travel by state ministers, the government was in a “frequent flier club”.

Addressing reporters here, George Sebastian, general secretary of the Kerala Congress, alleged that several ministers have been on regular foreign jaunts for official and personal reasons, many of them in clear violation of federal rules.

Addressing reporters here Saturday, Sebastian said it shocked him to learn that in the 620 days that the United Democratic Alliance had been in power (till December 2012), the ministers had spent 369 days on foreign trips.

“I got this information through the Right to Information. The information provided under the act is vague, and does not mention where they stayed or who hosted them. We have decided to seek legal action because the information which ought to be given completely has been given in a camouflaged manner,” Sebastian said.

He pointed out that of the 85 trips made by the ministers, 50 were categorised as private ones.

Kerala has 21 ministers, including the chief minister.

The Right to Information query was dated 20 March, 2013. At that time, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was yet to make a foreign trip after assuming office. State Cooperation Minister C.N. Balakrishnan and the lone woman in the cabinet, P.K. Jayalakshmi, minister for scheduled tribes, youth affairs, museums, and zoo, were also among the few who had not travelled abroad as ministers.

State Labour Minister Shibu Baby John made 13 foreign jaunts, of which eight were official ones.

The United Arab Emirates was the most preferred destination of the “frequent flying club” of the Kerala ministers, Sebastian revealed.

Asked if he knew the number of foreign trips that were made by members of his own front while they held office (2006-11), Sebastian said: “Even though I do not have any details of that, I am sure that it would only be very few.”

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