Zee Media Bureau
Bangalore: A planned foreign tour of MLAs from Karnataka amidst drought in parts of the state has come under sharp criticism.
The 10- to 12-day “study tour” would see a contingent of MLAs from the state visit Brazil, Argentina and Peru next month.
The "study tour" of the Estimates Committee of the Legislature, comprising MLAs from all parties, will cover holiday destinations such as Rio de Janerio, Manaus, Iguassu, Lima, Cusco, and Buenos Aires, besides Dubai, according to the itinerary.
Among the destinations are the "exuberant ecosystems of Rio`s tropical urban jungle" and shopping at Manaus, where they will experience rhythms of Samba, Tango and Paraguayan music during dinner and a show at a local restaurant."
The planned junket comes even as 65 taluks in the state have been declared drought-hit, parts of which were visited recently by the central teams after Karnataka government sought funds from the Centre to meet the situation.
Washing his hands off the matter, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the tour was not decided by the state government.
“It is the Legislature Committee that decides (on such matters). They (MLAs) go every year,” Siddaramaiah said.
Congress MLA Malikayya Guttedar defended the junket, saying: “MLAs from drought-hit areas not coming on tour. Media is discussing as if we have committed a crime.”
State minister Dinesh Gundu Rao also defended the tour, stating that “it has to be a combination of both study and entertainment.”
Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimappa had earlier told a news agency, “The Estimates Committee, consisting of as many as 18 legislators, is planning a study tour of Brazil, Argentina and Peru.”
He said the tour programme has been approved but the date of journey has yet to be finalised. "It depends on the committee to decide on the date of journey and schedule."
The tour may cost the state exchequer about Rs 60 lakh, the Speaker said, adding the trip is for 10 to 12 days.
The legislators would visit South American countries to study the developments there in various departments, he said.
Asked about the tour coming at a time when parts of the state are reeling under drought, Thimappa said it is for the legislators to take a call on the tour.
Former Assembly speaker KG Bopaiah (BJP) said he had not yet made up his mind on joining the trip, while Vishwanath Patil (KJP) said he would not undertake the tour.
A similar planned junket of 100 MLAs in different batches when large parts of the state were reeling under drought during the BJP rule last year had triggered a public outcry.
The tour by members of five legislature committees numbering around 20 each, accompanied by 15 officials, to Russia, South America and Scandinavian countries in September and October was then expected to cost the state exchequer over Rs 8 crore.
Following the outcry, the then Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar had asked a batch of legislators on a visit to Argentina and other countries to call off their trip and fly back home.
(With PTI inputs)