A recent RTI reply showed that the ruling BJP paid only Rs 744 for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chopper ride from Balangir to Patharchera in January.
The RTI reply, accessed by The Scroll, said the amount paid for this trip was the lowest among all trips undertaken by Modi since assuming office of the Prime Minister in 2014.
In fact, in the last five years, the BJP paid only Rs 1.4 crore for the 240-odd aerial trips undertaken by the Prime Minister. These trips have been classified as “non-official domestic trips”, meaning the Prime Minister is liable to be charged equivalent of the commercial rate.
The IAF, as per the RTI query, said: “All unofficial trips are charged as per the rates notified by the ministry of defence”. The rates are fixed at Rs 8.92 lakh for an hour of flying in a Boeing 737 and Rs 5.58 per hour for a VIP chopper ride.
Assuming that the trip from Balangir to Patharchera took roughly 10 minutes, the amount charged should be multiple times of what was actually paid.
However, the IAF did not specify the type of aircraft used for each trip nor did it break down the information in terms of flying hours per trip or the rate charged.
The response only mentioned the route flown and listed the amounts charged for each non-official trip. If indeed, it is a case of underpayment, the ride has come at just about the cost of a large-sized pizza or an afternoon lunch at a cosy restaurant.
According to the reply, the BJP paid only Rs 2,139 for a round trip from Bhubaneswar to Goshala ground in December. Likewise, Rs 845 was the cost for a Chandigarh-Shimla-Annadale-Chandigarh trip on April 27, 2017. The commercial flight rates for a one-way ticket from Chandigarh to Shimla are between Rs 2,500 and Rs 5,000. But, again, in the absence of details, it could not be ascertained how this was calculated.
The IAF response stated: “All unofficial trips are charged as per the rates notified by the ministry of defence. According to the ministry’s 1999 memorandum, the Prime Minister would be charged as per commercial rates when travelling on non-official duty “if the destination is linked by regular commercial air service and in other cases with reference to the per passenger per kilometre rates notified by the Ministry/Air Headquarters from time to time”.