January 24, 2022

Riot Victims

Riot VictimsAs if grandiose celebrations at the annual Saifai Mahotsav weren’t inappropriate enough when Muzaffarnagar riot victims have been left to fend for themselves in the cold, a 17-member delegation of legislators and ministers from Uttar Pradesh will head out for a 20-day “study tour” of Turkey, Greece, Netherlands, UK and UAE on Wednesday. The delegation, a part of UP’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, comprises current and former MLAs. The tour, for which the travelling party has contributed Rs 2 lakh each – roughly the same amount is being spent by the government – has eight cabinet ministers led by Azam Khan.

The leaders will tour IstanbulThe HagueAmsterdamLondonGreeceand UAE at a time when the state government is facing flak for mismanagement of Muzaffarnagar riots where thousands of people remain displaced. Even four months later, countless news reports and independent surveys by civil society organizations and individuals have highlighted the plight of riot victims in sub-human conditions in relief camps. Other members include ministers Ambika Chaudhary, Om Prakash Singh, Abhishek Mishra, Raja Bhaiya, Bhagwat Saran Gangwar, Shiv Kumar Beriya and Yogesh Singh. The delegation also includes SP MLAs Gazala Lari, Irfan Solanki and Munendra Shukla, along with BJP MLA Seema Dwivedi and RLD’s Pooran Prakash. Principal secretary, Vidhan Sabha, Pradeep Dubey, among others, are also on the tour.

Although CM Akhilesh Yadav had earlier agreed to travel with the delegation for two days, he, along with PWD minister Shivpal Yadav, Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey and Congress legislative party Leader Pradeep Mathur later refused. Denying any extravagance, an MLA said, “This is a healthy and enriching experience that allows legislators to visit parliaments, libraries and understand trade and economic activities in other countries. The approximate expenditure incurred per person does not exceed Rs 5 lakh.” Meanwhile, SP’s first family is spending crores of rupees on funding lavish Bollywood nights in its town Saifai in Etawah. A legislator told TOI that though the previous Mayawati government did not encourage such tours, but the SP government is more “liberal” about such excursions.

It’s worth recalling that members of such “high profile” delegations have exhibited less than exemplary behaviour in the past. A former BJP minister, now with the ruling party, was fined $300 during one such annual tour after he let the bathtub overflow and soak the hotel room’s carpets. Since the group was travelling on diplomatic passports, the hotel later brought the fine down to $100. Then two MLAs have now become famous for distributing ‘Gangajal’, ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ and mithai to NRIs.

Denisha Sahadevan


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