It is literally a shameful study in contrasts. First it was Karnataka, reeling under severe drought, which allowed a group of MLAs to go Down Under on a ‘study tour’ paid for by the public. Not to be outdone, Uttar Pradesh followed suit, dispatching a similar group on a riotous tour to the UK and Europe while hundreds of refugees of the Muzaffarnagar riots shivered in the cold. Facing heat on their return, here’s what the MLAs had to say:
Reporter: There has been a lot of public anger about this junket by Karnataka MLAs, funded by tax payers, to Australia and New Zealand. How can you justify it?
A Karnataka MLA: It was a very taxing visit. It was a long flight and the airline did not serve bisi bele bhath, or dosa and idli-vada-sambar, so you can imagine the sacrifice we had to make.
Reporter: What were you supposedly studying?
MLA: There were strange animals that we had never seen, hopping around or clinging to trees. There were also strange two-legged animals on Bondi Beach who had a lot of flesh on display. We had to avert our eyes since we are all vegetarians, but it all merits a closer study, so we have asked for another tour to reinforce our findings.
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Reporter: What findings? The drought has made so many farmers poor.
MLA: On Bondi Beach, we saw how people can survive with so few clothes. It’s a lesson in survival. In Australia, the Aborigines also survive in arid conditions. Of course, we never saw any Aborigines —they don’t frequent five-star hotels or drive the limousines we used, but we were told they manage very well.
Reporter: What about New Zealand, what was your takeaway?
Second MLA: Takeaway? We never ordered any takeaway, we ate in the best restaurants
Reporter: I meant what valuable inputs did you return with?
MLA: I still haven’t opened my bags but thanks to inputs from my family, what I brought back was very valuable…
Reporter: You went on a junket to Istanbul, London, Amsterdam and Greece while people in the camps in your state were freezing. What do you have to say?
An Uttar Pradesh MLA: Why do you think we went to those countries in winter? To see how people cope with freezing conditions. We returned with some cold facts.
Reporter: What were these cold facts?
MLA: On currencies and fluctuation. And as the British pound is worth over Rs 100, it didn’t take us very far.
Reporter: How far did it take you?
MLA: Just the length of Oxford Street.
Reporter: Must have been tough going. What was the study part of the tour?
Second MLA: We learnt a lot about retail. FDI in retail is a big issue in India, so we were studying the issue Directly from the Foreign side. We also visited some heritage buildings to see their preservation.
Reporter: Which buildings?
MLA: Harrods, Selfridges…
Reporter: What about Turkey, what did you learn there?
Second MLA: Thanks to the vision of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav… Are you recording this? He had included Turkey in case we felt homesick; the mosques there are just like Lucknow’s Imambaras, the kebabs are like our Tunday, and their belly dance is just like the Bollywood jhatka…
Reporter: What about Greece?
MLA: Also like India, we know all about grease.
Reporter: There are public demands to stop such junkets.
MLA: No problem, we can attend the Saifai festival hosted by our leader Akhilesh, where our favourite Bollywood stars perform live. Abroad, they treat you like refugees.