Bangalore: They will not be deterred by public criticism or government declarations of austerity in a time of drought. About 100 legislators, accompanied by 15 officials, are going ahead with “study tours” to Russia, the Scandinavian countries and South America. The bill could exceed Rs 8 crore. “The necessary formalities have been completed,” Assembly Speaker K G Bopaiah told Express.
According to official sources, the state government has given the green signal for foreign trips by five legislative committees: Petitions, House, Estimates, Assurance and Public Sector Undertakings. Each committee has 20 members and all of them are eligible to travel. However, some of them may opt out. Each team will include three officials from the Legislature Secretariat. Each trip will last 17 days.
Members of the Petitions and House Committees will tour Russia, while Estimates and Assurance Committee members plan to visit the Scandinavian countries — Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. These visits are set for the last week of August. Public Sector Undertakings Committee members plan to visit South America in September. They are, however, yet to finalise the countries they will visit.
The MLAs will not be deterred by public criticism or government declarations of austerity in a time of drought.
Sources said the cost of the Russia tour was estimated at Rs 6.70 lakh per member. Since both committees are headed by Deputy Speaker Yogesh Bhat, the team can have a maximum of 39 members and six officials. The total cost could be as high as Rs 3 crore.
The propriety of foreign tours by legislators when most parts of the state are reeling under severe drought was raised by former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa in the Assembly. He advised the government to cancel the visits.
The absence of the legislators is likely to hurt drought relief works since MLAs are ex-officio chairmen of the taluk-level task force that oversees the works. Bhat told Express the itineraries are still being finalised. Many legislators are busy securing visas, sources said. However, the fate of these tours is likely to be decided by the Karnataka High Court, which is hearing a public interest petition.