Darshan at the Vaishnodevi temple, a shikara across the Dal lake and a cable car ride to the snow-capped Gulmarg — sounds like the to-do list of someone on holiday in Jammu and Kashmir? It’s also the study tour itinerary for a bunch of corporators who left for the state, funded by public money.
While the BMC’s improvements committee makes their way to J&K, education committee members are planning a Dehradun visit and the health committee is looking at Sikkim. Group leaders of all political parties will be visiting Andaman and Nicobar in the last week of December. And, all these trips are paid for by the civic body, which will use its study tours budget. The J&K trip, for instance, could cost approximately Rs10 lakh.
While officials claim the four-day visit to J&K by 19 corporators and four officers is to study how the civic corporation works, the tour schedule accessed by HT tells a different story.
The trip has just one visit to a ‘municipal office’. On day one, corporators will visit the Vaishnodevi shrine and then head to Srinagar for sightseeing; the next stop is Pahalgam, where they will tour the beautiful Aru Chandan wari, popularly known as the ‘Betaab’ valley after the movie by the same name. The schedule includes a stop at Gulmarg, where they’ll enjoy a cable car ride. The corporators will end their study tour with shopping, before flying back to Mumbai.
Some corporators said they were not even told about what to study on this tour. “It is currently snowing in Jammu and Kashmir, at several places the temperature is near freezing point. Visiting the valley at this time serves no purpose as Mumbai’s climate is completely different,” said senior corporator, not wishing to be named.
“A study tour will be fruitful if the corporators implement even 10% of the things they learn there. But, so far, this has never happened. Corporators tour several places in the name of a study tour, that is all,” said Nikhil Desai, a citizen activist.