New Delhi: An RTI query seeking details of expenses incurred by the Centre on hosting US President Barack Obama earlier this year has been rejected by the Ministry of External Affairs on the ground that such information is sensitive and may affect bilateral relations with the foreign country.
Mumbai-based activist Anil Galgali, who filed the query with the MEA, had sought details of the total expenses incurred by the Indian government on hosting the US President and the American contingent that accompanied him in January this year.
He also sought information on the accommodation provided to the dignitaries and security personnel of Obama, besides details of the number of police personnel deployed and security arrangements made during his visit.
In response to his query, MEA's Deputy Chief Protocol Officer Rohit Rathish said every year the Indian government hosts various dignitaries from several countries and the visit of each dignitary is differentiated by various factors like the type of delegation visiting the country, the purpose of their visit, the manner in which the guest is hosted, the number of Indian cities the visitor goes to, among others.
"It would not be wrong to say that each visit by a foreign dignitary is unique. In such circumstances, the expenses incurred by the Indian government on different dignitaries are different and the issue is sensitive for the government. Also, relaying this information may have a negative impact on the bilateral relations with the foreign nation," the reply said.
"Thus, to maintain confidentiality of the sensitive information as per the established norms of the Section 8(1) (C) of the RTI Act 2005, any process to seek information on such nature comes under the relevant section that can hamper cordial relations with foreign nations," it added.
Expressing disappointment over the MEA's reply, Galgali said the BJP had come to power promising transparency and accountability and thus it should keep its assurance (of maintaining transparency) after coming to power.
"It would not be required of us to file RTI queries if the government itself informs citizens of the expenses incurred by it as this money actually belongs to the common man who works hard and pays his taxes on time," Galgali said.