Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel has spent over Rs 90 lakhs in domestic travel expenses, which is about five times higher than the allotted budget. The sum earmarked for domestic travel expenses by the government is Rs 20 lakh.
The union territory of Lakshadweep is connected by air to Kochi. But, Patel has twice avoided the easy route and taken the Goa route. "A two-way flight ticket from Daman to Lakshadweep costs about Rs. 30,000. Patel's trip might have cost the island up to Rs 23 lakh," reported the Wire. This is the second time Patel has taken the Coast Guard plane to Agatti. His trip on February 21 had cost Rs. 23.22 lakhs.
A PTI report suggests that Patel avoided Kochi as two Congress MPs from Kerala - TN Prathapan and Hibi Eden - were present at the Kochi international airport to convey their protest against the "anti-people" reforms on the island.
Lakshadweep paid for Patel's trip by taking from allocations like secretariat general services and other administrative expenses (OAE). Island's administrative expenses fund is already running low, and islanders worry whether budgets of other functions will be re-appropriated too, reported The Wire.
Since Union Territories do not have their own assemblies, budget allocation is done by the parliament. Taking money from another head would require the approval of the parliament. A former finance secretary told the Wire that Comptroller and Auditor General has the power to ask for the money to be recovered.
The administrator is already cutting back on state expenditure on jobs and welfare. The norms for medical evacuation were tightened on May 24. A four-member committee has been installed to study relevant documents by the medical officer-in-charge to allow evacuation by helicopter.
In the past, three helicopters were kept on the island for emergency medical help. "Medical emergencies have been dealt with very humanely. Even the administrator's chopper has been used for emergencies in the past," an islander told The Wire.