If one has to choose the most imbecile grounds on which PM Modi has been recurrently satirized, it is his foreign trips. The opposition has regularly criticised his frequent travels and the expenditures, claiming that they have been ineffective. Furthermore, the citizens have often mocked him, claiming that he has become eligible to open an NRI (non-resident Indian) bank account, and spreading foolish rumours that he received an invitation to the next Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference.
However, it is pertinent to note here that in comparison to Dr. Manmohan Singh, PM Modi has taken more trips in his engagement in the world. In spite of that, the overall expenditure has been less than his predecessor’s. Air India, the official airline for the Prime Minister’s overseas visits has billed Rs. 443.4 crore for PM Modi’s official foreign visits. The bill amount has been accumulated over 44 international trips since he became PM in May 2014. Whereas, Manmohan Singh undertook 38 trips as PM and had incurred an expenditure of Rs 493.22 crore during those.
The increasing frequency of foreign visits over the 2 Prime Minister terms indicates India’s growing engagement with the rest of the world. Opposition parties when they are critical of PM Modi for his frequent overseas trips don’t seem to realise that the trips underline the growing interaction between India, one of the fastest growing major economies, and the international community.
PM Modi has managed to take 6 more trips and also saved the taxpayers Rs. 50 crore in the bargain, if compared to the last PM tenure. One of the reasons for this lower travel cost is because the PM Modi often targets multiple destinations in one trip. Back in 2015, PM Modi said that he believes in “single ticket double journey” or in other words, travelling to multiple destinations during one overseas trip. “I usually try to visit two to four nations,” said PM Modi. While Manmohan Singh travelled mostly to one or two destinations, Modi flew to as many as to six countries on a single trip when he visited Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in 2015. 16 of his trips were to multiple destinations.
Moreover, PM Modi has also significantly reduced the extravagant entourage accompanying him on foreign trips. This includes avoiding the media contingent along with reducing officials and ministerial colleagues from the trips. The reduction in the delegation accompanying the Prime Minister substantially reduced the travel expenses.
Another reason attributed to the low cost of the foreign trips is that for six international visits, he used the business jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF), incurring no additional expenses. IAF’s Boeing 737 business jet is used round the year exclusively for VVIP travel. Modi went to Nepal, Bangladesh, Iran and Singapore in the same jet. In contrast, Manmohan Singh used Air India One for even the short-haul tours such as Bangladesh and Singapore during his tenure.
In an effort to further reduce the burden on taxpayers and try and make up for the travel expenses incurred, PM Modi had held a five day auction from 27th to 31st January 2019 wherein he auctioned all the mementos he had received over the course of his five year PM tenure by heads of states whose countries he had visited in his official capacity. These included over 1800 mementos to raise funds for the Namami Gange project. Earlier in 2016, the famous, ‘Narendra Damodardas Modi’ monogrammed pinstripes suit of PM Modi, was auctioned for a record amount of Rs 4.31 crore. The suit was worn by PM Narendra Modi during his meeting with the then US President Barack Obama. The amount that was raised at that time was too invested in the Namami Gange project. The previous Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had retained all gifts granted to him in official capacity.
PM Modi has always acted in a principled manner. The opposition just sits on the outside and makes critiquing remarks on the frequent foreign travels, choosing to ignore the fact that PM Modi has maintained excellent diplomatic relations with most of the countries. Undertaking more trips with fewer expenses at the cost of his own comfort shows the true exemplary character of the Prime Minister.