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Bar on secys travelling with ministers
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 16
Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi has issued a circular directing that Union ministers travelling abroad on official work should not be accompanied by their secretaries to ensure that senior officials are available in the Capital for consultations.

The circular was issued over a week ago when ministers began inundating the Prime Ministerís Office for permission to travel abroad. While many of them are going on personal holiday, several others have charted out ďofficialĒ trips which enables them to travel with an official entourage. The ministerís secretary is often part of this delegation which also includes the ministerís personal staff.

Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who is currently in China for the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), was the first to be affected by this circular. The ministerís request that Petroleum Secretary M.S. Sreenivasan be allowed to accompany him was initially turned down. It was after much pleading by Mr Deora that permission was granted. Although it is six months since he took over the petroleum portfolio, UPA sources said, Mr Deora is still quite diffident with this charge and since the SCO meet is an important international event, an exception was made in this case.

Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, it is learnt, also wants that his secretary R.B. Shahi be allowed to accompany him on his next trip abroad. So far, the permission has not been forthcoming, it is learnt.

UPA sources said such directives on official travel are issued periodically, particularly during the summer months when ministers and their officials take off abroad on some pretext or the other. It has been found that very often the entire top brass in a ministry is out travelling at the same time. As a result, senior officers are often not available for important consultations which hampers official functioning. Invariably, it is the officials themselves who plan these trips abroad.

The periodic travel restrictions, however, never deter the determined ministers from taking off and this summer is no exception. Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who is better know as a non-resident minister, has gone to Japan on official work. Similarly, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal is also away to the United States.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, who has been put on official duty by FIFA, has got special permission from the Prime Minister to travel to Germany for the World Cup matches. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav is slated to go to Europe and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who is said to visit India periodically, is planning to go to Germany for the World Cup final. Tourism Minister Ambika Soni is away to Spain on a week-long personal holiday with her family.

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