Thursday, 26 December 2013

Study Tours are NOT #ShamelessJoyride - Spot the Difference

Over the last 2 days, I have been listening and listening to various people speaking about this. A set of politicians have planned to tour the Amazon Forest, South America and Dubai in order to study the economy, policies and people over there. However, Timesnow has exposed a document that shows the itinerary of the tour. Its a disgrace to the planner that there is not even one item that could be considered a part of what we can define as 'Study'.

But then, very honestly, I am not at all shocked. There is no reason to be shocked at all. Like our CM has remarked, this is a regular part of their career. Some have even remarked that it is the right of the MLAs/MPs to go on 2 such tours annually, etc. and the right has been conferred on them by the law. Perfect! I do NOT feel sad nor do I feel bad that such tours are happening. We might try to equate this as a cost on the exchequer and do a hue and cry on this but that doesn't serve any purpose. A set of people who do not like what others are doing will keep shouting on them and such shouts do not deter the doers from doing what they are planning to do. It might only delay the process. Just last year, a similar junket has been exposed and what happened?

So, what exactly does a study tour mean (in my opinion, might not be exactly what the law says)
  1. A study tour is a tour to some other location that has certain expertise in dealing certain issues that we are not able to deal with. We go to them, learn how they are able to do it and try to implement our learning to solve our problem.
  2. Study tours could also be undertaken to learn new technology, business or anything that can be of help to the state or the nation.
  3. Study tours provision could have been introduced with the aforementioned objectives.

So, whats wrong with Study Tours? I feel the leaders are doing good by studying the world
  1. Here is the conlict of interest. The benefits of the tours must essentially accrue to the ones bearing the cost of the tour. In this case, the cost is borne by the taxpayers and hence, the tours must be of some help to the taxpayers.
  2. What started as study tours have now become a joy rides or perks of the politicians. How? May be one MLA tried to repeatedly use/misuse the provision of the study tour and then, a rule was made that one can undertake only 2 such tours in a year. Thus, in the process, all the politicians realized that there is this provision and they all must use it. It is their right to go on a study tour.
  3. Its just like you are served tea in the office. Now, one employee drinks too much tea. The office makes a rule that you can not have more than 2 cups of tea in a day. Soon, even those employee who were not having tea start taking interest in having tea. After all, something that was an option to be executed when the need arises has now been turned into a right. And we all know better to utilize out rights, especially when there is a possibility that our cup of tea could be consumed by other if we don't.
So, these study tours should be stopped?
  1. Absolutely not. Why would you want to stop a study tour? You have to ensure that study tours are undertaken for the purposes of study only.
  2. But how would you do that? Well, there are no straight answers. It needs courage, determination and willingness of the CM or the concerned minister to take necessary steps. Some have advised to ensure a proper agenda or ensure submission of a report with findings and outcomes of the tour.
  3. It would be wrong on our part to generalize. I am sure there are at least some leaders who have, in the past, made use of such studies to learn something and do good for us. The idea is great but the process of implementation is flawed.
In a nutshell, Study Tours, by themselves, are neither bad nor do any harm to the economy. It is their misuse of that is a disgrace. I definitely do not agree with the argument that a study tour should not be undertaken when the state finances are not in a good shape or when there is a draught. Such argument is as good as asking Mukesh Ambani not to live in Antilla, or for that matter, all of those who live in a home, because there are people without homes. In fact, it is exactly in these times that study tours, discussions, seminars, inviting experts, panel discussions, etc. should happen. I am speaking about the ideal definition of study tours and not the maligned meaning it has gained today.

I guess, a right step in this direction has been taking by Mr PGR Sindhia who said that he will request the Karnataka CM and the speaker to cancel these tours. The solution lies in action. There is a need to cancel/amend the provision to ensure this doesn't repeat. By the way, it is very much possible that the existing provision itself could have been an amended and accepted one. One must also keep in mind that, in case, we all decide to reduce the number of these study tours to 1, for example, we shouldn't go back and question the people who go on the tour. In other words, it would be meaningless for us to put a number. We have to have clear provision that leaders who have an appropriate agenda, an honest intent to learn something and a strong plan to implement the learning for the common benefit MUST be encouraged to go on the study tours at whatever it takes (subject to the condition that we will, in the longer run, benefit more from this exercise).

How about the ones who want to have the experience and a bit of study.
  1. There are numerous ways to achieve better results that what you can achieve with study tours.
  2. One could be to invite the specialist/team to the state and ask them to work on the project or implement it. Ask them to give a report on how we should solve the problem under discussion.
  3. On my, did I forget Youtube? NDTV Good Times? History Channel? There are numerous ways to get information/knowledge about anything you want to know.
So, things are not bad by themselves. They are made so by a set of people. Neither are things good by themselves. They are made so by a set of people. We have to build more of people of the latter kind. I always believe in getting to the heart of the matter and resolving it from the roots. The root to this problem is a provision that makes it legally possible.

People seriously desirous of saving the taxpayer of the burden should appeal to repeal this provision instead of unnecessarily harassing the law abiding politicians. Hows that for a change?

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