Last week, a Delhi-based Right To Information (RTI) activist, Lokesh Batra, finally got responses to his request for information on the public funds spent on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official foreign trips between June 2014 and June 2015. Mr. Batra was forced to write separately to every Embassy and High Commission in each of the countries Modi visited, and yet some denied him the information on the grounds that the “resources would need to be diverted to collate the information”. Batra had to go in appeal in several instances, but four countries – Japan, Sri Lanka, France and South Korea – haven’t yet supplied the information. In the United States of America, the details of his Washington trip were not available, while the spending on the New York segment was made available. Since the RTI request concerned the current Prime Minister only, there isn’t a relevant comparison that can be made with the spending of past Prime Ministers.
In all, India spent over Rs 41.1 crore on his foreign trips over the last year. The US trip was probably the most expensive, but details of the Washington leg are, as mentioned, not available. Among the countries for which full data is available, Australia was the most expensive.
Few Indian missions abroad gave a break-up of the spending. Among those that did – Brazil, the USA and Australia – hotel accommodation and the hiring of vehicles locally took up the bulk of the expense.
To take a more 360 degree view of things, we added in information on speeches given by Modi (excluding media interactions) and agreements signed (not including joint statements) on each visit, based on data from the Ministry of External Affairs website. It is likely that the official data is incomplete – Mr. Modi’s iconic Madison Square Garden speech is not listed in his US visit, for example, nor is his speech to Fiji’s Parliament – and we have made an attempt to complete it where possible.