Former Indian President Abdul Kalam, better known as an eminent scientist was on a three-day visit here last week to attend the Energy symposium in Colombo organised by the Power and Energy Ministry.
Despite Kalam being a person used to a simple lifestyle, the organisers of the event to which he was invited as the Chief Guest, had to provide him with security and facilities befitting a former Head of State. Therefore, they requested the Foreign Affairs authorities to provide, among other things, a limousine for the Indian dignitary to travel about during his visit to the country.
The Foreign Affairs authorities agreed to place a vehicle at the disposal of the foreign visitor for the whole visit, but at a hire charge of Rs.90, 000 a day!
The officials handed the missive from the foreign authorities to the Minister who took the initiative to organise the function and also invite Kalam to grace the occasion and the latter discarded the missive with disdain and retorted angrily: “How ridiculous! To pay Rs.90,000 as hire for a day!”
The organisers later obtained a vehicle from the President’s transport division on the instructions of the Minister.
The Minister still smarting under ‘the insolent demand’ by the Foreign Affairs authorities inquired as to why they charge such an exorbitant amount as hire for an official vehicle for the use of a visiting foreign dignitary. And he was shocked by the reply he received from a Foreign Affairs bigwig.
“If you hire a vehicle when you are in the States, you will have to pay more-or-less the same charge!”
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