There they were, rattling around Buenos Aires, one of the ports of call on their study tour of South America. As the 14 Karnataka MLAs posed happily for pictures with their spouses, a reporter asked them if they had any official meetings lined up on this official tour. None at all, said a beaming MLA, we are going sightseeing. This is enough to make most people's blood boil. At a time when prices are rising and travel is becoming dearer, many people are thinking twice before taking a holiday even to an internal destination. Then to see our elected representatives traipsing around in exotic locales at the taxpayer's expense - Rs. 8 crore in the case of the Karnataka worthies - really leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth.
These so-called study tours for politicians have become par for the course nowadays. At the drop of a hat, our politicos are airborne to study variously the sanitation, education, architectural, urban planning and sundry other systems in foreign countries. Now, it is no one's contention that we should not learn from and emulate the best in other countries. But, in this day and age of internet and other forms of communication, it is not always necessary to be physically present to understand other systems and practices. It is passing strange that despite numerous study tours, there is never anything concrete to show for them when our people return. If at all study tours must be undertaken, it would be best if the government nominates specialists in the field to go. This would obviate the necessity for the host country to brief them from scratch and it would also ensure that they come back with worthwhile inputs. In our parliamentary system there is little provision in any case for anyone to present the findings of these tours, leave alone implement them. We never hear of these frivolous tours in countries like Britain or the US, or even in the less developed world.
There is a huge sense of resentment against the entitlements that our elected representatives accrue to themselves. In the case of the Karnataka MLAs, even calls for them to cut short their tour have been disregarded. But why only MLAs? There have been former presidents, even prime ministers who have taken large posses of family members on official visits throwing our embassies abroad into a tizzy. The government, both state and central, needs to be far more selective in granting permission for these tours. They cannot be in the nature of grace and favour. Those going on these tours must account for their time and what they have learnt which could not be done from India. The government's business is that of governance, not as a facilitator of tours and travels for the political establishment.