Criticism apart, Karnataka CM, MLAs say foreign tour is on

K SiddaramaiahK Siddaramaiah

On a day the Congress government in Karnataka sought Rs 1,014 crore from the Centre for drought relief in 14 districts, a section of state legislators cutting across party lines insisted there was no reason to cancel a proposed tour of three South American countries for which they are attracting much criticism.

CM Siddaramaiah also backed the once-in-five-years opportunity. Assembly Speaker K Thimappa, who clears foreign tours, pointed out that one team of legislators was already in Australia.

The 18 MLAs of the estimates committee of the legislature, who are set to tour Brazil, Argentina and Peru, insisted they were going ahead despite criticism. "Why are you making it an issue? This is not the first time legislators are going on a tour. It is the legislature committee that decides, not the government,'' Siddaramaiah said Thursday.

Congress MLA Mallikayya Guttedar, who heads the estimates committee, said the legislators were not committing a crime by touring South America. "Are schoolchildren not sent on educational excursions? MPs and MLAs are being sent in a similar manner,'' he said. The expenditure of Rs 7 to 7.5 lakh on each MLA was not much and such tours were a part of the events for every legislature in the country, Guttedar said.

The estimates committee is planning to visit holiday destinations in South America, including Rio De Janeiro, Manaus, Iguassu, Lima, Cusco, Buenos Aires, besides Dubai in the UAE. The tour is expected to cost the state exchequer about Rs 60 lakh and is on the lines of a tour undertaken by the previous estimates committee during the BJP government in 2012.

In 2012, the legislators had defied a call by then CM Jagadish Shettar to return home after sections of the media claimed their tour had more entertainment value than educational. As many as 12 legislators accompanied by three secretariat officials visited Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru last year. The tour cost the exchequer approximately Rs 45 lakh.

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