Govt-sponsored birthday gifts for legislators

Govt-sponsored birthday gifts for legislators

Nearly 50 MLAs and MLCs, who are on various standing committees of the State Legislature, are ready with bag and baggage to fly abroad on a ‘junket’ shortly. Their tour itinerary includes Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and many other tourist destinations across the globe.

The all-expenses-paid trip, ostensibly for ‘study’ purposes, entitles each legislator to spend around Rs 15,000 a day.

The tour expenses, including air tickets and daily allowance for 50 legislators and officials accompanying them, work out to around Rs 1.5 crore. Some of the ‘tourists’ plan to take their families along. The junket comes just when the State has had to tide over a bad fiscal, borrowing nearly Rs 5,000 crore from the open market to make ends meet, due to shortfall in revenue collection.

The Legislature has 15 different standing committees, including joint committees, comprising nearly 150-member MLAs and MLCs. Currently, four of these committees—SC/ ST, Appeals, Library and Subordinate Legislation—have planned junkets of their own.
The SC/ST Committee will fly out first on June 18 for Australia for 15 days, officials said. Similarly, the Appeals committee members want to spend 15 days in New Zealand and Hong Kong, but are yet to finalise their trip. Library and Subordinate Legislation Committee members are still busy preparing their junkets. “All other standing committees are working out their own proposals,” the sources said.

Interestingly, the committees have finalised their tours within days of the Special Board of the Legislature approving foreign tours. The Board chaired by the Assembly Speaker, has the Council Chairman, the Chief Minister and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister as its members. Previously, these committees were not allowed to go on foreign tours.
“The rules were changed by the Board as a gift to the MLAs and MLCs to mark the government completing one year,” sources added.