The ubiquitous study tour has long been part of babudom lore. Delegations of bureaucrats and often politicians would go to foreign climes to study subjects as diverse as the bus rapid transport system to winemaking. They would then return and forget all about it till the next trip came around. Often, the urge to visit cooler countries would come upon them during the scorching summer months. These trips, at huge cost to the taxpayer, would enrage people further when photographs would be published in the media of the worthies staggering under the weight of shopping bags, sailing down picturesque rivers or posing in exotic locales. Now, it would seem that the government has decided to put the brakes on this practice. Officials who had gone on visits since 2103-2014 will have to provide details of what was achieved. They will have to submit the details of proposed foreign trips and the cost and what results can be expected. This will certainly see a sharp drop in the number of officials trotting off on trips which are of no use whatsoever to anyone except to themselves.
The BRT experiment is one in which a system which worked in Colombia’s Bogota, a city with a small population and consequently limited vehicular traffic, was sought to be transplanted in Delhi with its vastly bigger numbers. It is no surprise then that after spending hugely on the project and causing immense hardship to commuters, the scheme has now been scrapped. The study of demographic patterns, agriculture and so on in other countries has yielded little of positive benefit to India. Politicians are as much to blame as babus for this trend. In fact, not long ago, a leading politician went as far as to try and impart a communal tinge to the issue when he was criticised for gallivanting around the world while people were dying of the cold in his state. There may be occasions when a personal visit is required to interact with the relevant authorities in other countries, but with so many different forms of communication, this should be the exception rather than the norm.
Now that they are going to have to provide details, let us hope that such trips will be curtailed to a large extent. Although the move is to restrict travel of this sort by officials, it should apply equally to politicians, many of whom, seem to think that free trips are part of their entitlements. This move will, if nothing else, make officials a little more grounded in reality.