Bangalore, March 3: Cows and sheep graze in open lands.
That’s not a kindergarten lesson but a “finding” in a report by 11 Karnataka MLAs who went on a government-funded “study tour” to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in December.
“Not just that (the grazing),” said group leader B.R. Yavagal of the ruling Congress. The team also saw how cherry juice was made and recommended the model for the state.
They did more. “In New Zealand, we actually saw the negative impact of tree felling,” says the report the MLAs submitted to the Assembly after the Rs 1-crore junket.
Environmentalists have long protested felling in Coorg, the forested patch in the state’s south along the Kerala border, to set up power lines but many wondered if the dangers could be gauged only after such a “study” trip.
The report is also studded with pearls of sociological wisdom. One “finding” says “there is no caste system” in the three countries. Another declares that “people are more disciplined”.
Lest the team be accused of chicanery, the members acknowledged there was “leisure” too. Yavagal even justified it. “We can’t be studying all the time,” he said before adding that the 11 legislators did some sightseeing and were particularly “happy” with a helicopter ride to a glacier.
While the ice and the mountains were exciting, the team can’t be accused of being removed from the “grassroots”. “We were very impressed by sheep grazing and modern farming methods in Australia,” Yavagal said before declaring profoundly that most of what they saw could be replicated in Karnataka.
Another “revelation” was that toilets along highways are essential. “These toilets can create jobs here (in Karnataka),” said Yavagal, who is also the chairman of the Assembly committee on backward classes and minorities welfare.
Karnataka, with a population of over six crore, has an unemployment rate of 20 per cent. Its MLAs, though, seem to have been hard at work. Earlier, 30 legislators had gone on a 15-day “study tour” of South America.
An outcry had forced chief minister P.C. Siddaramaiah to declare that he would stop all such trips and promise guidelines for such visits, but he had also accused the media of “blowing things out of proportion”. The chief minister is yet to comment on the latest trip and the report.
Congress leader Srikanta Murthy said it was an Assembly-related matter. “The party has nothing to do with this,” he added.
The BJP refused comment. None of its MLAs was part of the trip.
While such overseas junkets are not new to the state, the last two drew heavy criticism from several quarters, including some MLAs who chose not to go on such trips. “It’s fine if someone wants to go with his own money. But spending taxpayers’ money on such wasteful ventures is absolutely shameful,” said a Congress MLA.
“I have travelled quite a lot and gained a lot of insight into how developed nations work. I’m sure there are many like me who spend from their pocket for foreign trips,” the legislator said.