New Delhi: Union Ministers are taking the austerity drive very seriously. Most have opted for economy class travel and some are making austerity their brand statement.
A clarion call by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the belt has been tightened already, austerity is in place.
"Ministers, MPs and some categories of officers are eligible to travel in business class in domestic service and first class in the international sector. So I have suggested to them that should try and avoid it in the domestic circuit," Pranab Mukherjee had said.
Leading by example, himself, Pranab Mukherjee took a low budget carrier flight to Kolkata on Saturday.
"During the entire period of elections, I have travelled and whenever I have travelled, I have mostly travelled by economy class," he said.
The cost-cutting, expense-slashing has caught on like a rage. It's the latest in fashion.
Of course some politicians have been trying to attract attention with their austerity for years now. Leading the pack is Mamata Banerjee who has neither taken an official car nor a ministerial bungalow.
She told CNN-IBN she loves economy class and has never got into the luxurious salon provided to the Railway minister.
Even the high-flying Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel, will be seen more frequently in the company of ordinary mortals.
"I welcome the Government's decision asking its ministers to travel by the economy class," Praful Patel said.
In fact, there's a race among minister to win the austerity crown.
"If you don't hold a conference in a five-star hotel doesn't mean it won't be a success. There are other venues," says Tourism Minister Kumari Shelja.
Minister of State for Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh adds, "I travel only by train."
And former Maharashtra chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh said that he will fly by economy class.
That's not all. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Teerath has cancelled her tour to New York. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has asked officials to cut down on foreign and domestic travel.
Going into the saving mode, the UPA II's message is loud and clear - that concern for the farmers in a drought-hit cannot be just crocodile tears and ministers will have to tighten their purse strings.