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180 Karnataka MLAs to visit China, draw flak
M Siddaraju in Bangalore | August 13, 2007 15:01 IST
A visit by about 180 Karnataka legislators to China scheduled from August 22 has evoked criticism as the trip comes at a time when parts of the state were reeling under floods and drought.
The elected representatives will be away for 14-days on the study tour.
The tour has come in for flak as their expenses are being borne by the state exchequer.
There are 225 MLAs and 75 MLCs from both houses of legislatures in Karnataka and more than 100 of them have opted out of the study tour, citing various reasons.
According to Deputy Speaker N Y Gopalakrishna, who is also chairman of the tour committee, some legislators did not evince interest to participate on the ground that they had already visited China and few others backed out due to personal reasons.
The state is funding the tour even as ten districts were in the grip of monsoon fury and at least six districts were drought-hit. The government had asked for central funds for relief measures.
Though peeved by the barrage of criticism, Gopalakrishna remains unfazed and vehemently defends the tour and also the expenditure it involved.
"We legislators have saved about Rs 24 crore to the government", he says.
The argument advanced by Gopalakrishna is "the state legislature earmarks Rs 2 lakh per legislator per annum for study tours. Normally these tours are undertaken within the country. Over a five year period, i.e. the normal tenure of a legislator, one is entitled to Rs 10 lakh".
He further says on the proposed China trip, the expenditure per legislator is Rs 1.64 lakh.
Two batches of legislators -- 45 each in a group accompanied by five officials, will leave for Shanghai on August 22 and a similar group will fly to Beijing [Images] on August27.
The People's Congress of China has extended an invitation to all the legislators under the Indo-China Friendship Programme.
The host state will make arrangements for a visit to educational institutions, hospitals, universities, SEZs apart from field visit to agricultural areas.
Amid controversy over the China visit, the tour committee is facing a host of problems from its own men, as some of them are keen on the visit, but have no passports.
The trip has been restricted only to legislators and they cannot take anyone, including their wives or children, along.
The reason: The external affairs ministry has strictly directed the state that only legislators can undertake the visit and not their family members or friends even if they opt to meet their expenses.
Yet another problem encountered by the tour committee was the last minute cancellations.
Some members who have enrolled have been sending requests that they will not be able to make it. But the committee has already dispatched their details to the travel agents to get visas and complete other formalities.
Some legislators have left everything to the tour committee, including securing a passport for them.
Gopalakrishna says, "Ultimately, we may end up with about 150 legislators and some officials."
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa have decided to keep themselves away from the tour.