No official information on foreign trips by Sonia, Rahul during UPA regime, says new book

No official information on foreign trips by Sonia, Rahul during UPA regime, says new book


No official information on foreign trips by Sonia, Rahul during UPA regime, says new book


New Delhi:  Did you know, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never informed the Lok Sabha about their personal foreign trips or even the PMO had no such information, that Sheila Dikshit had tried to mislead the media once vis-a-vis files related to terrorist Afzal Guru and that top civil servants often do vanishing act during their overseas assignment or deputation? In each of these cases, there is one common thread - the Right to Information Act and this piece of law exposes some inside stories, which went around in the corridors of power, in the recent past. Further more - thanks to the RTI activism yet again, it has come to light that with regard to hosting of the Iftar parties -- a hyped annual feature of Lutyen's culture - most government offices including the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and even the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats are neither consistent, nor clear on who actually should foot the mega bills. According to a new book, 'Journalism Through RTI' penned by journalist Shamlal Yadav, while "most curious" foreign trips were undertaken by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi during the 10 years of UPA rule, "information of none of the foreign trips except that of Sonia Gandhi's Bangkok trip was available to the PMO, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs or the National Advisory Council (NAC), as per their responses (to a series of RTI queries)". On queries pertaining to foreign visits by the Members of Parliament, the Lok Sabha Secretariat had said, "As per the convention, the members of Lok Sabha inform the Honourable Speaker about their foreign visits private or official. However, there is no rule available in the Rules of Procedure or Direction by the Lok Sabha or any other document in the Lok Sabha Secretariat, whereby it has been made mandatory for the members to give prior or subsequent information about their foreign visits to the Speaker, Lok Sabha". The book further said the Lok Sabha Secretariat has also informed that both Ms Gandhi and her son were never part of any Parliamentary delegation to foreign countries from 2004 to 2012, therefore political clearance for them was never sought from the Ministry of External Affairs. As to whether there was any 'exemption' for SPG protectees from getting MEA clearance, the Ministry of Home Affairs for its part had forwarded the RTI application to the Cabinet Secretariat and the National Security Guard (NSG) to provide the information, if any. Mr Yadav in his book further refers to a response from the PMO on this - which had said, information regarding overseas travel by the top Congress leaders "does not form part of records held by the PMO". However, the PMO had said that between July 14 to 17, 2004, Ms Gandhi had visited Bangkok to attend a conference on AIDS.

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