Muzaffarnagar forgotten, Uttar Pradesh ministers and MLAs fly out on five-nation study tour
Lucknow – At a time when Uttar Pradesh is struggling with the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar riots and allegations of mismanagement, eight state ministers and nine legislators have left on a five-nation study tour that is looking more like a paid holiday.
Over 18 days, the ministers and MLAs, who are part of the state’s ‘Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’, will visit Turkey, Netherlands, the UK, Greece and the UAE to study parliamentary techniques in other countries.
The legislators left for their first stop, Istanbul, this morning. The Samajwadi Party government has sanctioned around Rs. 1 crore for the trip, which comes just months ahead of the national election.
The tour is led by Urban Development Minister Azam Khan, in charge of the Muzaffarnagar district where thousands driven out of their homes in the September riots are still in relief camps, trying to survive the winter in temporary shelters without enough warm clothing or facilities. The state government is now forcing the displaced families to return to their villages, in what is seen as an attempt to stem criticism about the abysmal condition of the camps.
Also in the group is controversial minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh or ‘Raja Bhaiya’, who was taken back into the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet in October, eight months after he was forced to quit over the allegations that he plotted to kill a senior police officer.
Minister Ambika Chowdhury, who is in charge of the revenue department, has also joined the delegation, which includes one BJP MLA and an RJD MLA.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav notably dropped out of the tour, at a time he is being slammed not just for the dismal handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots but for picking this time to organise a grand festival at his hometown Saifai, featuring film stars and other celebrities.
Uttar Pradesh assembly speaker Mata Prasad Pandey and Congress legislature party leader Pradeep Mathur also withdrew their names, while their colleagues who left are already facing condemnation.
“At a time when Muzaffarnagar is reeling under problems and there is acute cold, the ministers and the legislators need to be in their constituencies. It is more of excursion and holidaying than a learning tour,” said Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi.