Setu: Minister’s mystery trips to US, Egypt, Panama costing Rs. 10,76,294

Minister’s mystery trips to US, Egypt and Panama costing Rs. 10,76,294

Cost to centre:

Rs. 5,59,183 for the Egypt-Panama trip.

Rs. 5,17,111 for the US trip.

Total Rs. 10,76,294

No visit reports filed. Not even reasons for the trips. US trip file not traceable.

Two questions: did the Minister see the facilities in place in Suez canal for salvage operations for grounded ships? Bollards are placed every 200 feet on either bank of the canal for tying wire ropes to rescue and tug a grounded ship. Did he wonder how such an operation would occur in a mid-ocean channel in Setu?

Who is interested in development of coastal people of Setusamudram?


Setu reason for Baalu’s mystery trip to Panama?
13 Feb 2008, 0233 hrs ISTclip_image001,clip_image002RAJEEV DESHPANDEclip_image001[1],clip_image002[1]TNN

NEW DELHI: Just what took shipping, road transport and highways minister T R Baalu to Panama and Cairo in early November 2004?

Not only did he bill the cabinet secretariat for the trip – to the tune of Rs 5,59,183 – instead of his own department; strangely, no officials accompanied the DMK leader on his visit to the two destinations.

Responding to an RTI application from Dev Asish Bhattacharya, Baalu’s ministry failed to shed light on what took the minister to Panama and Cairo by a circuitous route.

“Not known,” the ministry tersely responded to Bhattacharya, acknowledging in the process that no visit report, as is the practice, was filed.

This despite the fact that the visit had – as indicated by the bills were submitted to the cabinet secretariat – an official content.

The connection between Panama, Cairo and Baalu, though speculative, could well be canals. Egypt controls the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal runs through Panama. And, it is no secret that UPA – especially the DMK, to which Baalu belongs – has had a bee in the bonnet about the Sethusamudram canal project.

Baalu didn’t submit Panama visit reports
13 Feb 2008, 0225 hrs ISTclip_image001[2],clip_image002[2]Rajeev Deshpandeclip_image001[3],clip_image002[3]TNN

NEW DELHI: Responding to an RTI application from Dev Asish Bhattacharya, the road transport and highways ministry has failed to shed light on what took T R Baalu to Panama and Cairo by a circuitous route.

Expenses of the trip was paid by cabinet secretariat instead of his own department; strangely, no officials accompanied the DMK leader on his visit to the two destinations.

The department said the trip to Panama and Cairo was not sponsored by it and the purpose of travel had been marked as “not known” and the column on accompanying officials also read “none”.

There is a sense of concern in cabinet secretariat over some ministers not properly maintaining overseas travel record and, in certain cases like Baalu’s, even failing to submit visit reports.

Law minister H R Bhardwaj offered conflicting reports for his visit to London in late 2005. Personal business or government work which needs discreet handling could possibly be the reason for the reticence, but government is troubled by the trend.

Senior officials said that even if the visit to Panama and Cairo was private in nature, the minister’s office would have informed the Cabinet Secretariat about his plans and permission would still have been sought from the PM.

But in this case, it is difficult to assume that there was no official business to be transacted even though Baalu’s department maintains an enigmatic silence.

These are not the only incongruities in Baalu’s travels. On October 25-27, the minister travelled to the US for a bilateral meeting with the American transportation secretary and while a visit report was received, the ministry refuses to divulge more, saying that the “relevant file is not traceable”.

No visit report was received for a trip to Singapore that Baalu went on between September 8-10, 2005. What is clear is that the visits did cost the government. Expenditure for the Singapore trip was Rs 86,359 and for US, it was Rs 5,17,111.

For Cong, Sethu’s a bridge away from electorate
13 Feb, 2008, 0020 hrs IST, TNN (Economic Times)

NEW DELHI: Cold political calculations will overshadow the Congress’ response to the Sethusamudram issue. Sonia Gandhi, wary of the party being branded anti-Hindu by the BJP, has indicated a waning of interest in the the project.
The move to destroy the Ram Setu will be anti-Hindu and the party is afraid that a Hindu backlash would cost it millions of votes. With elections scheduled to be held in ten states this year and the general elections due in 2009, the Congress would rather turn a blind eye to the funds pumped into the project than risk giving a platform to the BJP to capitalise on the issue.
According to sources, Ms Gandhi and Ahmed Patel conveyed their apprehensions to CPI leaders — AB Bardhan and D Raja — when they met on Monday. The CPI leaders were of the view that since the UPA government had already put in large funds for the Sethusamudram project, it should take it up or else it would mean a waste of money. The Congress, which has already got a taste of the possible backlash, there is more to lose than money.
It was Ms Gandhi’s damage control intervention in the Sethusamudram affidavit case that finally put an end to the issue from snowballing into a major crisis for the party. The affidavit prepared by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) presented before the Supreme Court by the central government was seen as an outright violation of the sentiments of the majority community. The Communists, however, backed the DMK.
The affidavit was withdrawn by the government on Ms Gandhi’s direction and Congress leaders said the existence of Ram was not being doubted. This was not approved by the CPM and CPI, which asked the Centre to remain firm in implementing the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project, a 150-year-old “dream” of the people of Tamil Nadu.
They said the previous BJP-led NDA Government, which had given its nod for implementation of the project, was now opposing the project for political gains and the AIADMK had also joined the “communal forces” in stalling the project.


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