‘Study tours’ of MLAs scrapped

After spending lakhs on lavish trips to exotic Indian destinations undertaken by standing committee members of the West Bengal Assembly,the cash-starved state government has issued a ban on such tours “for the time being”.

Written by Madhuparna Das | Kolkata | Published: June 21, 2012 2:13:04 am

After spending lakhs on lavish trips to exotic Indian destinations undertaken by standing committee members of the West Bengal Assembly,the cash-starved state government has issued a ban on such tours “for the time being”.

Speaker Biman Banerjee said only intra-state tours would be allowed.

According to Assembly sources and official records,various standing committees have made at least 15 tours between November 2011 and March 2012. The average cost for each inter-state ‘study tours’,mostly to popular travel destinations like Andaman,Lakshadweep,Kashmir,Himachal Pradesh,Assam,Arunachal Pradesh,Manipur and Mizoram,is around Rs 6 to 10 lakh.

In one such ‘study tour’,members of the Standing Committee on Transport visited Lakshadweep in February this year. The same month,members of the Standing Committee on Municipal Affairs made a trip to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “We went to Andaman to study the water supply system and civic amenities. We will submit a report soon,” said Prabodh Sinha,Left Front MLA and chairman of the committee.

“In Andamans,some of the committee members had asked us to arrange for a three-day sea cruise,which is a very costly affair. The request could not be accommodated,” said an official.

In another ‘study tours’ in February,the Estimates Committee travelled to Assam and Meghalaya. When asked what did they ‘study’ in the two states,Mohammad Shorab,a Congress MLA and chairman of the committee,said: “We visited Assam and Meghalaya to study the education system.” However,he said,“we also saw some of the tourist sites” there.

Khagen Murmu,CPM MLA and chairman of the Bidhayak Elaka Unnanayan Committee,said: “Twelve members of our 20-member committee,representing almost all parties,visited Manipur and Mizoram to see how the local MLAs have constructed school buildings.”

Under the existing practice,the formation of standing committees is supposed to be an all-party affair and its members are entitled to undertake ‘study tours’. The travel destinations are decided on mutual consent. Entirely funded by the state,the tour expenses cover the travel,accommodation and transportation costs,besides daily allowance.

A senior Assembly official said: “Most of the standing committees always try to visit Andaman or Kashmir or Northeast,which are tourist destinations.”

Other officials said while the members of the committees mostly travelled by train earlier,MLAs in the new government were opting for air routes.

But it has now been decided that the inter-state tours will be ‘restricted’ and only tours within the state will be allowed. “…the expenses are very high. We have,for the time being,decided to stop sanctioning interstate tours. The chief minister is aware of this,” said Speaker Banerjee.

“Considering the financial condition of the state,it has been decided to suspend the inter-state tours. Several such tours have been cancelled,” said Sovan Deb Chattaopadhyay,chief whip in the state Assembly.

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