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$280 million: Money Indian taxpayers paid for Modi’s 84 trips in 4.5 years

Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hectic travel schedule over the past four-and-a-half years cost Indian taxpayers about $280 million (Rs 20.09 billion taking the value of rupee as 71.76 per dollar) as he made 84 trips around the world, according to India’s foreign ministry.

The money spent on each trip, combined with the cost of maintenance on Air India One and setting up a secure hotline, was provided in a response to a lawmaker’s question in parliament by V K Singh, the country’s junior foreign minister.

Since taking office, Modi has maintained a punishing pace of world travel, meeting some global leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe multiple times in a bid to boost India’s influence in global affairs and secure its strategic interests.

Some of his trips, including an informal summit with Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan, are credited as diplomatic successes. His meeting with China’s leader after a tense stand-off in the Himalayas was seen as ushering in a detente between the world’s two most-populous countries.

His trip to Japan in 2016 — which came immediately after Modi eliminated 86 per cent of India’s currency, sending millions into bank queues to exchange worthless cash — led to accusations by the opposition that he was travelling the world while ordinary Indians were struggling.

Some were also a bit odd. While on a trip to Africa, Modi — a vegetarian and devout Hindu nationalist who reveres and worships bovines — gave Rwandan villagers 200 dairy cows on a beef-eating continent where there is a possibility of them getting slaughtered. He also signed a memorandum of understanding to open a yoga college in China’s Yunnan province, and pledged to cooperate with Turkmenistan on both yoga and traditional Indian medicine, according to the statement.

These sorts of agreements — aspirational, though sometimes vaguely-worded — were signed with countries as varied as China and Palestine. In Oman, a memorandum of understanding was signed pledging “cooperation in the field of health.” In Portugal, Modi’s diplomats pledged to cooperate “in the exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes,” an agreement India also struck with Vietnam and Oman.