This is a novel way of keeping the wheels of governance moving. Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, is on a tour of Holland to study, among other things, how to encourage cycling in UP. This, we would assume, is a priority in the impoverished state wracked by crimes against women and bouts of communal violence. But, why blame the chief minister? He is only following in the illustrious footsteps of seniors in his party who thought it fit to go on a jolly and a jaunt even as the victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots were shivering in makeshift camps. On the last visit, several senior UP ministers undertook a five-nation study tour, the purpose of which we are still unclear about. But the inventiveness of the political brain is to be admired when it comes to fashioning reasons to go abroad at the taxpayers’ expense. It has ranged from studying sanitation conditions to wine-making, the more exotic the locale the better. On their return, we have yet to hear of any worthwhile study report being submitted. The few which have would make a class two student roll in the aisles with laughter.
The Modi government has perhaps set the cat among the pigeons by saying travel is necessary only when all avenues of communication, including teleconferencing, have been exhausted. This is a very productive suggestion. We have seen how seriously many of them undertook study tours in the past when photographs surfaced of many of them weighed down by shopping bags, on cruises and outside tony hotels.
There certainly must be a few visits abroad to cultivate personal equations with fellow leaders. Such goodwill is handy when it comes to seeking investment. But the real magnet would be a safe environment, conducive business policies and far less red tape. It will be interesting to learn how Mr Yadav proposes to promote cycling in a state where all politicians travel in large convoys, scaring ordinary people off the road. We think that staying firmly grounded would be one way to get our politicians to actually understand the needs of the people firsthand and come up with homegrown solutions.