Nine Maharashtra legislators on tour of UK, Netherlands and France for eight days
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Nine Maharashtra legislators on tour of UK, Netherlands and France for eight days

Over Rs 75 lakh has been spent on three tours in the last one-and-a-half years. The current tour began on Tuesday, and will go on till September 12.

mumbai Updated: Sep 08, 2018 20:14 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UK,Netherlands,France
Questions are already being raised about spending taxpayers’ money on foreign tours.(REUTERS/ Pic for representational purposes only)

A delegation of nine legislators from the state, including one who had resigned over the Maratha agitation earlier this year, is on a three-nation tour to United Kingdom, Netherlands and France — the third such tour of lawmakers in the past year-and-a-half. The state legislature has estimated to have spent more than ₹75 lakh on these tours.

The 9-member delegation is led by Congress legislator and the head of the Public Accounts Committee, Gopaldas Agarwal. They began their tour on September 4, and will go on till September 12.

Abdul Sattar, the Congress MLA from Aurangabad who had resigned in July, in support of the Maratha agitation, is also part of the tour. So are Bhausaheb Kamble and Nitesh Rane (both Congress),Rajesh Tope (NCP), Rajendra Patni (BJP), Satyajit Patil, Shambhuraje Desai and Ajay Chaudhari (all Shiv Sena), and two other officers. Agarwal and Sattar were also accompanied by their wives. The speaker is yet to taken a decision on Sattar’s resignation. Eight of the 10 lawmakers are members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Maharashtra legislature.

On Wednesday, the delegation visited the House of Lords and House of Commons in the United Kingdom, and held meetings with the presiding officers. The delegation also met the members of the PAC of the UK Parliament on Thursday. The delegation will visit Parliaments in Netherlands and France over next four days.

“This is the first time the Maharashtra PAC is visiting any other country in its history of 58 years,” Agarwal said. “The PAC has saved thousands of crores of rupees in the past four years. After all, the exchange of ideas between two systems and parliamentary bodies help us upgrade our system and development.”

An official from the finance department said the tour was being coordinated by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the parliamentary body which gets a budgetary allocation from the state government. “The per person expenditure is about ₹3.75 lakh, of which a third is being borne by participants. This means the CPA is spending about ₹25 lakh on the tour, the same amount it spent on the two earlier tours,” the official said. The cost of participation of the officials is taken care of entirely by the CPA, while the legislators bear the cost of their wives’ participation.

However, questions are already being raised about spending taxpayers’ money on foreign tours.

“After criticism and hooliganism by a couple of legislators on a tour in 2009, the legislature had decided to suspend all tours. It was after continuous demand by legislators that these tours resumed last year. Since then, the government has spent more than ₹75 lakh on three such tours. There are no reports submitted, or policy chalked out on the experience of the tours,” said an official from the legislature.

Citizen activists, too, slammed the legislators for the tour. “The question here is, do the legislators have the understanding and capability to pay back in terms of contribution to development or formation of policy,” said James John, coordinator, NGO Agni. “The lawmakers spend money on these tours for their enjoyment, and not for the betterment of the state. It is out of the feeling that we are not accountable to anybody.”

Agarwal,however, said there was “no question of expenditure”, and that the outcome of these tours “cannot be counted in terms of money”.

Agarwal said it was only after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ intervention that the tours got clearance from the External Affairs Ministry, just minutes before the flight took off.

In may 2017, a 16-member delegation, led by legislative council chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar, toured Australia, New Zealand and Singapore for 16 days. After that, a 14-member delegation visited cities in China for 10 days in January this year.

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 01:26 IST