ibnlive » India

Oct 07, 2009 at 08:14pm IST

Loophole lets officials to beat austerity

New Delhi: Ministers are travelling economy class, MPs are taking pay cuts, and politicians in general want to seem austere. But not bureaucrats.

CNN-IBN has accessed a government circular which shows that bureaucrats are using the air miles they earned as frequent fliers on international and domestic travel for their spouses.

A circular--issued barely a month before the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government started its austerity drive--has allowed government servants to use free companion tickets offered by airlines for international travel.

Activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, who accessed the circular using the Right to Information Act, says the perk is unjustified. “When the work they are travelling for is official in nature, why should these perks be not used for official purposes,” says Bhattacharya.

The circular allegedly reverses a Finance Ministry directive which prohibited use of mileage points earned on account of official tours, particularly in the form of free companion tickets.

Ministries seem unaware how frequent flier schemes are being used by their officials, as airlines offer schemes directly to passengers.

A spokesperson for the Congress, which leads the UPA government, said it would be good if bureaucrats were austere. “There is a finance ministry directive and it would be nice if even bureaucrats follow it keeping in mind the sensitive times,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari.