‘Study tours’ take Orissa House panels to temples, hill stations

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From the Shirdi Saibaba shrine in Maharashtra to Vaishno Devi in Jammu; from Ooty in Tamil Nadu to Gulmarg in Kashmir; from Lord Mallikarjun temple in Andhra Pradesh to Kamakhya Temple in Assam; and from the Golden Temple in Punjab to Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan. Documents from May 2009 onwards of the Orissa Assembly obtained by The Indian Express under the RTI show that 105 of its 147 MLAs have packed in quite a bit of religion/tourism in the past three and a half years.

Of the 33 House committees, more than half have been crisscrossing the country from temples to gurdwaras, hill stations to national parks in the name of study tours. Twenty-four of the committees toured other state Assemblies to "interact with sister committees on matters of mutual interest". The rest are finalising similar "study tours".

Officially, the tours have cost around Rs 95 lakh to the state exchequer in travel and lodging. That doesn't include the Rs 400 daily allowance that each MLA gets during the tour, as well as the money spent by the hosting state governments, which generally subsidise their stay. While a report has to be submitted at the end of such study tours, till date, not a single one has done so.

The Indian Express has exhaustive tour records of each committee that went on study tours to places outside Orissa — Vaishno Devi was the favourite. The Orissa Assembly did not provide the expenditure of each committee, but that by its individual MLAs.

Here's a look at some of those study tours:

Public Undertakings Committee (Nov 10-14, 2010; Feb 15-19, 2012; Aug 10-14, 2012)

The seven members of its sub-committee have gone on three trips since 2010, travelling to Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to "examine the CAG reports relating to OSRTC (Orissa State Road Transport Corporation), OSFC (Orissa State Financial Corporation), Orissa Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) and Gridco (Grid Corporation of Orissa)". Among those places visited to find a solution to the problem of the ailing OSRTC and OSFC were the Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary and sites "of tourist interest in and around Guwahati".

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