Varanasi:Lakhs of people have been affected by the raging floods in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Varanasi parliamentary constituency but this hasn't detered a mixed group of 49 corporators from embarking on a 10-day, six-city tour of three states -- ostensibly for a "study on sanitation".
Compounding this, a group of 22 BJP corporators was set to leave on Sunday on a week-long four-city tour but this has now been deferred -- not cancelled.
Varanasi Mayor Ram Gopal Mohley, known for his proximity to Modi, lamely attempted to justify the junket, saying the trip had been planned in advance.
"Their bookings had been done and tickets and all done much before. The flood was not foreseen then," he said, adding for good measure that the corporators should have used their "vivek" (intelligence) in such a situation.
He also requested the BJP corporators to refrain from going ahead with their trip and confirmed to IANS that despite "similar advance bookings" the journey had been deferred for the time being.
Additional Municipal Commissioner of Varanasi Rajendra Sengar admitted to IANS that the trip of the first group had no specific agenda. "Ye sirf ek bhraman hai" (It is just an excursion tour), he said.
Not surprisingly, for this group, drawn from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Congress and Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), sanitation seems to be the last thing on their mind to go by their "mauj-masti" (fun) postings on social media, where they are seen in aircraft, cars and five-star hotels, among others.
This group flew first to Delhi on August 25 and were scheduled to take in Kochi, Thekkady, Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. They will also spend two days in Mumbai before returning on September 3.
The second group was to have visited Mysuru, Ooty, Tirupathi and Bengaluru and was to have returned September 6.
How much of the tax-payers money did the corporation have to fork out? No one seems to have an exact idea or don't want to say, but the RTI route is bound to provide an answer.
For the record, the Varanasi floods have displaced thousands, affected over eight lakh people, submerged 30 villages and inundated 65 localities in the city. Over a dozen have died of drowning and other rain-related mishaps.
Ticked off by Modi after reports that the local BJP unit was doing precious little to help the people in distress, party workers have now hired 20 boats and are distributing food, milk packets and drinking water pouches to the affected people. Edible items like sukhdis and matthis sent by 25 industrialists from Gujarat are also being distributed.