Very little gets India’s media – and indeed our middle class – as vexed as the notion of ‘junkets’ abroad by our politicos. Television anchors froth at the mouth & op-ed pages take on moralistic tones every time this kind of thing is discovered in any part of India.
I think this is all totally misplaced. I do agree that many of these trips are simply ‘opportunities’ to go abroad and are, in many instances, not at all for the purposes they claim to be for. But the lesson to be learnt from this reality, should be the exact opposite of what we seem to be learning.
The point to ask ourselves is why does everybody want to run abroad at the drop of a hat. Obviously because of our deeply ingrained view that most places outside are better than our own country. If, for a moment we accept that assumption to be true, the case to ensure our politicians go abroad, see the reality for themselves, and come back with a even a vague desire to improve conditions in India, is very strong. Nothing can so fire up ambition to bring change as the exposure of travel. And so I say let them go; in fact I would say, actively encourage them (especially the younger ones at the grassroots levels) to go, without necessarily having to get devious about it. Even if most of the money is ‘a waste’, and just a handful come back with the desire to create change, India would have gained immensely.