Austerity fever catches up: Pranab leads, others follow

Last Updated: Saturday, September 12, 2009 - 23:52

New Delhi: Austerity fever caught up with
in the Union Cabinet on Saturday as a host of union ministers vowed
to cut down on travel and other expenses, following the
example set by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who travelled
by economy class on Saturday.

Mukherjee, who is in the midst of a controversy over
austerity measures imposed by his ministry, flew to Kolkata
this morning by economy class of a budget airline.
His office said he would return tomorrow by economy
class on an Air India flight.

The austerity drive was joined by a number of other
ministers, including Vilasrao Deshmukh, Veerappa Moily, Anand
Sharma, Sushilkumar Shinde, Praful Patel, Mamata Banerjee,
Krishna Tirath, Jairam Ramesh and Dinesh Trivedi, who vowed to
cut down on trave and other expenses.

Mukherjee might also cancel a visit to Cyprus for a
Commonwealth Ministers` meeting to which he had planned to go
by a special aircraft, sources close to him said.

They said he would fly ordinary class if he flies abroad
for a World Bank meeting in Turkey sometime later.

"It`s nothing new to me. During elections and whenever I
travel on commercial flights, I almost (always) travelled
economy class. It`s nothing new," Mukherjee told reporters in
Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said the party believed
in the principle of "simple living and high thinking".

He said if a few ministers and MPs observe austerity
measures, the message would go across on its need in times of
economic recession.

Ahmed, however, said ministers with physical problems are
exempted from it.

"If somebody is tall or plump, or has a physical problem,
how can he or she travel long distance in cramped seats," the
spokesman said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, September 12, 2009 - 23:52

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