Row over Karnataka lawmakers' foreign jaunt

Row over Karnataka lawmakers' foreign jaunt

Row over Karnataka lawmakers' foreign jaunt

A controversy is brewing over the proposed trip to South America by 18 Karnataka lawmakers, ostensibly on a study tour when the Congress government is struggling to finance development works and its budgetary schemes this fiscal.

Though the foreign jaunt in January to Argentina, Brazil and Peru by the Karnataka legislature committee, with lawmakers of the three main political parties as its members, has not been finalised, the trip has come under severe criticism from all quarters, especially the public.

"The trip has not been finalised yet as we are waiting to know when the join session of the state legislature will be held in January. This is not the first time our legislators are going on study tour to different countries as it has been the practice over the decades," Congress lawmaker and estimates committee chairman Mallikayya Gutedar told IANS Friday.

Joint session of the state legislature is held in January of every year with an address by the state governor to the lawmakers of the 225-memeber assembly and the 75-member council.

Even as a section of the committee members like Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) lawmaker N.

Shivashankar decided to drop out of the tour to devote more time to development works in his constituency, a senior official of the state legislature secretariat confirmed Friday that a nine-member legislature committee was currently on a "study tour" of Australia and New Zealand.

"As the tour was finalised long ago, the nine members of the committee on welfare of backward classes and minorities left Bangalore for Australia Dec 20 on a 15-day trip to Australia and New Zealand," the official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

Terming the proposed foreign jaunt a cruel joke at the tax payer's expense, Nav Bharat Democratic Party president R.K. Misra said though such tours were organised twice in five years for every lawmaker as per the legislative procedure, they must be stopped and the provision should be cancelled.

"It is immoral go on such tours considering the drought situation in 14 districts across the state and at a time when the exchequer was finding it difficult to clear bills for Rs.9,000 crore pending over a long time," Misra told IANS here.

The new generation political party was floated early this year to contest in the ensuing parliamentary elections.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, however, declined to comment on the issue, saying it was the prerogative of the legislature committee and the state government had no say in it.

Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimappa said though the tour programme was approved, the schedule was not finalised.

"The tour may cost the exchequer about Rs.60 lakh," Thimappa said.

The "study tour" of lawmakers from the ruling Congress, the JD-S and the Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to take them to holiday destinations such as Rio De Janerio, Manaus, Iguassu, Lima, Cusco, and Buenos Aires, besides Dubai.