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On an RTI query about Narendra Modi's travel expenses during the 2007 women empowerment sammelans, activist Trupti Shah was told that the 'chief minister's expenses may be considered nil' as his office did not mention it in the accounts.
In a huge embarrassment to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has been raising questions on the expenditure on foreign travels of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, an RTI activist has accused the state government of not providing details on the travel bills of the chief minister and his ministers for the last five years.
Vadodara-based RTI activist Trupti Shah has sent a letter to Modi, saying information about his and his Ministers' travel-related expenses, mostly by helicopter, during `women empowerment sammelans' had not been provided till date.
Shah said she had filed a Right to Information (RTI) application on July 18, 2007 seeking details about the expenses incurred by the state government for organising the sammelans in 27 places across the state in 2007.
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"The chief minister had organised women empowerment sammelans in 27 places in Gujarat in 2007 just before the assembly polls and I have asked under RTI about expenses of this sammelan particularly because the women of Gujarat are asking for implementation of Domestic Violence Act and appointment of protections officers which have been denied due to lack of funds," she said.
Shah alleged she was denied the information even after repeated reminders. She said the state's General Administrative Department (GAD), in a letter dated November 1, 2007, provided the list of 27 places visited by Modi from March 10, 2007 to September 20, 2007.
But regarding the travelling expenses, the letter stated "the office of the chief minister did not mention the travelling expenses and so the CM's travelling expenses may be considered nil."
This, the activist alleged, is "ridiculous" and "unbelievable" because Modi had travelled to most of the 27 places by helicopter.
Shah then shot off a letter on November 20, 2007 seeking details about the name and agencies who bore the expenditure. When her letter didn't elicit a response from the GAD, she sent a reminder on January 18, 2008 and again on April 17, 2008 but she did not get any reply, Shah alleged.
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After failing to get the required information, Shah filed a complaint under the RTI Act before the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of Gujarat.
During the last hearing on September 26, 2012, the CIC directed the GAD to hand over the relevant information to Shah before the next hearing in October. The officer concerned said the information was not available though they have requested the CMO and other ministers to provide it, Shah said.
The letter comes in the wake of Modi seeking answers from the Centre regarding Congress President Sonia Gandhi's trips abroad which, he alleged, have cost the exchequer Rs 1880 crore.
Another Gujarat-based RTI activist Bharat Singh Jhala said, "State government should disclose every detail of travelling whether he (Modi) went to China or Japan or elsewhere. Where did the funds come for the Vivekanad Yatra. If there is nothing wrong then the whole data should be given otherwise everything is 'golmaal'".
He alleged that the Gujarat administration department is also not revealing information and claim to be under pressure.