Unfazed by criticism over its foreign jaunt at a time when the state is hit by drought, a Karnataka Legislature committee today insisted it would go ahead with the visit to Brazil, Argentina and Peru with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also defending their tour.
As the jaunt by a contingent of about 18 MLAs planned for January stirred up a controversy, Siddaramaiah told reporters the trip was decided by the legislature committee and it was not as if they were going on the foreign tour this year for the first time.
“Why are you making it a big issue?” Siddaramaiah asked reporters, adding, “It is the legislature committee which decides and they don’t come to us (the government).”
Unperturbed by the controversy, Mallikayya Gutedar, who heads the Legislature’s Estimates Committee, said they had decided to go ahead with their trip, whose schedule would be decided depending on the legislature session next month.
“We are not committing a big crime…don’t you send school children on vacation..similarly MPs and MLAs are being sent through the legislature committees…”, he told reporters.
He said Rs 7 to 7.5 lakh was being spent on each MLA and “not crores of Rupees,” and added that legislators in other states too undertake similar study tours of foreign countries.
Guttedar said it was not as if the ruling Congress had started the practice and pointed out that even during the previous BJP rule, legislators undertook foreign trips twice, as he expressed “surprise” over the controversy generated.
The 10 to 12-day “study tour” of the Estimates Committee comprising MLAs from all parties will cover holiday destinations such as Rio De Janerio, Manaus, Iguassu, Lima, Cusco, and Buenos Aires, besides Dubai.
Among the destinations are the “exuberant ecosystems of Rio’s tropical urban jungle” and shopping at Manaus, where they will “experience rhythms of Samba, Tango and Paraguayan music during dinner and a show at a local restaurant.”
The junket comes even as many taluks in the state have been declared drought-hit, with central teams visiting the affected regions after the state government sought funds to grapple with the situation.
Karnataka Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimappa had said yesterday that the tour programme has been approved but the date of journey was yet to be finalised. The tour may cost the state exchequer about Rs 60 lakh, he had said.
A similar planned junket of 100 MLAs in different batches to Russia, South America and Scandinavian countries when large parts of the state were reeling under drought during the BJP rule last year had set off a public outcry, forcing then Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar to ask a batch of legislators to call off their trip and fly back home.