“Why are you making it a big issue!” chief minister Siddaramaiah shot back at reporters when they questioned him about the moral propriety of MLAs’ trip to foreign countries next month.
The trip is likely to cost the state exchequer at least Rs1.26 crore. But the chief minister did not see anything wrong with the junket. Never mind that he defended the costly ‘study trip’ the same day he requested the Centre for more funds in view of drought.
Unfazed by criticism, state legislature’s estimates committee is determined about going ahead with the trip. At an event in the city on Thursday, the chief minister dismissed the hullabaloo around the trip as a non-issue. He said that for such trips, it is the legislature committee that takes the decision, adding that it doesn’t come to the government for approval.
Head of the committee in question, Mallikayya Gutedar, compared the trip to school children’s vacation, but did not see anything wrong with the expensive fair. “We are not committing a big crime... Don’t you send school children on vacation! Similarly, MPs and MLAs are being sent,” he told presspersons.
He said Rs7-7.5 lakh was being spent on each MLA (18 are to go on the trip) and “not crores of rupees.” Further, he argued that legislators in other states too undertake similar study tours of foreign countries. Expressing surprise over the public outcry, he said it wasn’t the Congress that started the practice. He said the BJP government too had sent legislators on foreign trip.
Even as the MLAs and the chief minister justified the trip, the latter requested Centre to grant more money to Karnataka owing to drought in 13 districts. He said a team appointed by the Centre toured the state and concurred over severity of drought. He said that according to rules, the Centre can give Karnataka Rs1,014 crore as drought relief, but the state needs Rs1,700 crore.
Highlighting the severity of drought, he told presspersons he requested the assessment team to impress upon the Centre the need to grant more funds to the state.
(With PTI inputs)