Tourism Minister Nilkanth Halarnkar while admitting that he does not really know whether Rajesh Kale was officially part of the team that went to USA to promote Goa as a tourist destination, however asserted that he not breached any protocol or did anything inappropriate.
Speaking to Goa Chronicle.com, he said that he travelled economy class to USA and back and that he stayed in hotels as permitted by the rules. “Even when we travel to Delhi if there is no place in Goa Sadan, ministers stay in five star hotels and that is what I did in USA,” he said.
He said he has never misused is official position and misused government funds for personal pleasures. “I did not go to Europe even though the Tourism Department had a programme there in Italy, Russia and Berlin,” he said and added that even in the USA he did not use the official phone to make international calls.
“Whenever I have travelled abroad as Tourism Minister, I have brought something back for the State and from the USA trip after meeting Vivian Richards there who strongly recommended golf courses to attract high end tourists, I am constituting an all party committee to decide upon the infrastructure required to improve tourism in Goa,” he said.
Taking a dig at his predecessor Micky Pacheco, he said it would be worthwhile to compare the expenditure incurred by him as Tourism Minister vis-à-vis the expenditure during Micky’s reign as tourism minister.
“Just because Micky used to frequently go to USA nobody bothered to check whether it was on official account or his personal account, but fingers are being pointed to me even though I have been quite frugal,” he said.
He asserted that he does not wish to waste public funds and disclosed that thanks to his flourishing business, he has enjoyed holidays in the past in UK, Dubai, Qatar and Portugal before becoming a minister.
As for Rajesh Kale, he said he presumed he was part of the official entourage given the fact that normally one or two staff members of Tourism Department besides the Director are present for any tour.
He however, assured to check whether Kale travelled on his own and also said that necessary action will be taken if any wrongdoing was found.