According to a recent survey of the Air Travel Association, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi has been flying more after he became Prime Minister than he did when he was a pilot with Indian Airlines.
The secretary of the association gave me more details on this unusual record: â€śWe ourselves at the ATA were surprised when the computers gave out the figures, Mr. Gandhi has flown more man-hours as Prime Minister than he did during his total career with Indian Airlines as a pilot.
â€śCould you be more specific,â€ť I requested.
â€śThat is our job, to be specific,â€ť the secretary said, â€śAt the moment, Mr. Gandhi rates an average of 11, 434.87 km. of flying per day, calculating the figures from the day he was made Prime Minister by a grateful Congress-I party. As against this, taking his entire career as an Avro pilot, he rates 3,812.08 km. per day.â€ť
â€śInteresting,â€ť I said.
â€śMind you, these figures do not include the times Mr. Gandhi flies by air force planes, but it includes the distances covered by him in helicopters on his various tours of tribal areas,â€ť the secretary said.
â€śDoes this include only domestic travel or also foreign travel?â€ť I asked.
â€śCertainly not the foreign travel, with that the mileage would be astronomical,â€ť the secretary said. â€śDo you realise how many kilometers it is from Heathrow to Mexico! To that you add the mileage that he would be consuming from Mexico to New Delhi, unless he decides to come via Moscow, then it will be considerably more.â€ť
â€śCould I have the figures?â€ť I said.
â€śYes, take down. So far, in foreign travel, the Prime Minister has co vered a total of 2,340,595.09 k., which is 944,089 km. more than his mother, and 2,477 km. more than Mrs. Sonia Gandhi,â€ť the secretary said.
â€śHow do Mr. Gandhiâ€™s air travel figures compare with those of other present Indian leaders?â€ť I asked.
â€śThe Congress-I chief ministers have a good record, flying between their respective state capitals and New Delhi four times a week, but they come nowhere near the Prime Minister. Mr. Arjun Singhâ€™s record is not bad, but it is confined to domestic travel only. According to our calculations, he spends more time in the air reaching trouble spots in different parts of the country than he does at the trouble spots itself. Mr. Zail Singh had a decent record, but of late the President has hardly travelled at all, except for one brief trip from New Delhi to Kathmandu and back.â€ť
â€śHave you reached any conclusions from your research?â€ť
â€śOnly one, that the main reason Mr. Gandhi decided to change over from pilot to Prime Minister was because he wanted to fly,â€ť the secretary said.