Hyderabad: Less than a month after the state government renewed a ban on foreign trips by ministers and bureaucrats, Andhra Pradesh Information and Public Relations Minister D K Aruna today embarked on a 16-day “official” trip to the USA.
The minister, according to an order issued by the General Administration Department, is supposed to attend the 12th American Telugu Association (ATA) Conference and Youth Convention in Atlanta on an “official visit”.
Interestingly, the ATA event is scheduled to be held just for three days, from July 6 to 8 but the minister will spend 16 days in the USA, excluding the journey time.
“The (minister’s) visit is for official purpose and the expenditure shall be borne by the Andhra Pradesh government,” the GAD Special Secretary (Protocol) N V Ramana Reddy said in the order.
The Union Ministry of External Affairs issued clearance from political angle to the visit of Aruna, he said.
Barring the ATA event, there is no other apparent ”official purpose” in Aruna’s US trip, sources in the General Administration Department said.
Aruna also holds charge of Cinematography and AP Film, TV and Theatre Development Corporation.
What has raised eyebrows is the duration of her visit which, coupled with journey period, could stretch to 20 days.
“Probably even the Prime Minister doesn’t make a 20-day ’official’ foreign trip at one go,” a bureaucrat in the GAD remarked.
Besides Aruna, six other state ministers – P Sabita Reddy (Home), Galla Aruna Kumari (Mining), D Sridhar Babu (Civil Supplies), Anam Ramanarayana Reddy (Finance), N Uttam Kumar Reddy (Housing) and Kasu Venkata Krishna Reddy (Co-operation) – are among the “invitees” to the ATA conference.
But none of them is said to be attending the ATA programme, sources in the GAD said. “We did not receive any requests from any minister except Aruna for the US visit,” a GAD official said.
The state finance department issued an order on June 12 listing various “economy measures” for the financial year 2012-13. Among several other things, the order states, “No foreign visits at the cost of state exchequer will be allowed.”
This is not the first time that the government’s orders on “economy measures” are violated. Though such orders are issued every year, ministers and bureaucrats regularly go on foreign jaunts at the state’s expense.
Ministers heading departments like Irrigation, Industries, Agriculture, Municipal Administration, Tourism and Information Technology and bureaucrats manning them are n”frequent flyers” – either to “promote the state interests” in the respective sectors or to “study the best practices abroad” for replication here.
“The order on economy measures is implemented more in breach. It has become only customary to issue such orders in the name of austerity,” a bureaucrat noted.