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  1. As reported at rediff.com/business on November 12, 2010 Disclosure of expenditure incurred on domestic and international tours of Railway Minister will endanger her life-- this was the argument cited by the ministry while denying information about the travels undertaken by her. Activist S C Agrawal had filed an RTI application seeking to know the travel expenses of Members of Parliament and ministers, which was transferred to Railway Ministry for giving details about domestic as well as international tours undertaken by their minister and two ministers of State. "The information sought by the applicant is not maintained in the format as desired by the applicant. The revelation of information relating to movement of high dignitaries could endanger their life and physical safety and exemption is sought under clause 8(g) of the RTI Act, 2005," Under Secretary Protocol Sudhir Kumar said in the reply. But at the same time, the ministry has provided file notings on the movement of RTI application, sought by the applicant, wherein the protocol officer has said Minister of State for Railways E Ahmed has taken one foreign visit. However, Agarwal said he will appeal against the decision. "How can information about tours undertaken in the past endanger lives of Ministers? It is beyond comprehension why Railway is not ready to share expenses of its minister and ministers of state," Agrawal said.
  2. Railways files flown to Didi in Kolkata at cost of 11 lakh a year As reported in Times of India, Aug 22 2010 New Delhi: Railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s prolonged absence from her ministry has cost the exchequer more than Rs 11 lakh over a one-year period. Expenses for the travel of five officials between New Delhi and Kolkata to meet Mamata for clearing files have cost the railways Rs 11,23,550. The officials in question are officer on special duty to the railway minister, Gautam Sanyal, private secretary Santanu Basu, executive director (public grievance) J K Saha, additional personal secretary S Ashok and APS Ratan Mukherjee. While the airfares of Saha and Mukherjee could not be furnished by the railways, the total cost incurred for air travel by the other three officials to Kolkata and back was Rs 8,73,946 from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. Besides, railways had to shell out Rs 2,49,604 as TA/DA to five officials for travelling to Kolkata to meet Mamata during this period, a Right To Information reply has disclosed. Right To Information activist S C Agrawal had sought information about the expenses of officials to contact Mamata Banerjee and the cost of the transportation of files between Delhi and Kolkata. Branded as “absentee” railway minister by the opposition, Mamata is being constantly accused of paying more attention to her home state than to railways. However, railway minister Mamata Banerjee had said in Parliament last week that her absence from Delhi has not affected the functioning of her ministry, whose performance was the best “in the last 50 years”. PTI Source : Article Window
  3. As reported by ANANYA SENGUPTA at telegraphindia.com on June 4 , 2010 New Delhi, June 3: Don’t want to go to office? Become a minister. You can even saunter in late and leave in a jiffy. No one will question you. In a reply to a right to information (RTI) query filed by an activist, the cabinet secretariat has said there are “no rules that prescribe” that ministers have to attend office. Nor do they need to be punctual. “There are no rules that a minister has to attend office at a fixed time,” the reply said. It means railway minister Mamata Banerjee, accused by her rivals of frequently bunking office and being more in her home city Calcutta, cannot be criticised for flouting rules. Chemicals and fertilisers minister M.K. Alagiri, too, can now thumb his nose at critics. The DMK leader has also been criticised for preferring to spend more time in home state Tamil Nadu. Activist Debashish Chatterjee had wanted to know if it was compulsory for a minister to attend office. “The point is that when these ministers draw salaries and the government pays for their staff and they have their perks, then why can’t they be present in office to look after their ministry work? “If they are interested only in their constituents, then they shouldn’t take a central post. I filed this application as I started wondering why some ministers are never seen in their offices and if there is a rule to ensure that they do,” Bhattacharya said. In reply, the Lok Sabha secretariat said there was no provision either in the Constitution or in the rules of House procedure that defined duties and responsibilities of members of Parliament or through which accountability could be fixed on non-performing MPs. Constitutional experts are with the MPs on this issue and say legislators have far greater accountability than an ordinary citizen. “A modern-day politician has complicated demands. One cannot treat them as schoolchildren and expect them to be in office from 9am to 5pm. In my experience, I can say that presence in office is no indication of productivity,” said political analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta. “The basic thing is that they have to ensure output. Some ministers do it by delegation. How and when they do it is their headache. The question that one should ask Banerjee is about railway accidents and safety issues, not why she isn’t there in her office. For all you know, she might be burning the midnight oil to clear her files.” Sources, however, said Mamata’s frequent absence from Delhi had led to a huge backlog of files. In the last month, the sources said, Mamata hasn’t been to her office at all. In the week leading up to the Bengal civic polls, she was in Delhi but didn’t turn up at Rail Bhavan. She also chose to skip a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, though she was in the capital. Criticised by the Opposition for her frequent absence from Delhi, Mamata had defended her stay in Calcutta, saying the national capital was not her home. “Delhi is not my home. When there is no Parliament session, why should I stay in Delhi? Kolkata is my homeland,” she told a public meeting in Calcutta. The comment came in the wake of the recent stampede at a New Delhi railway station that left two persons dead and several injured. The Opposition, including arch rival CPM, had said she was neglecting her duties as railway minister. “It is a ploy by the CPM to send me to Delhi. No one can force out Mamata,” she had said. Now, with her party’s impressive run in the civic polls, the Trinamul chief can say you don’t need to go to office to get it right.
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