Brushing aside intense criticism over its planned foreign trip, a Karnataka Legislature committee on Thursday insisted it will go ahead with its tour of three South American countries, even as another group of members of Legislative Assembly is currently touring Australia.
As the controversy snowballed over the visit of 18 MLAs of the Estimates Committee to Brazil, Argentina and Peru, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also defended their tour planned for January, saying it was not as if they were going on the foreign tour this year for the first time.
"Why are you making it a big issue?" Siddaramaiah asked reporters, media persons, "It is the legislature committee which decides and they don't come to us (the government)."
The Legislature Committee chief Mallikayya Guttedar said they were "not commiting a big crime" and expressed surprise over the outcry. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimappa said another team of about 18 legislators was now in Australia.
The committee on welfare of backward classes was on a 12 to 13 day trip to Australia and other countries, he said. Unperturbed by the controversy, Guttedar said they had decided to go ahead with their trip, whose schedule would be decided depending on the legislature session next month.
"We are not committing a big crime...don't you send school children on vacation. Similarly members of Parliament and MLAs are being sent through the legislature committees..", he told reporters.
He said Rs 7 to 7.5 lakh was being spent on each MLA and "not crores of rupees," and added that legislators in other states too undertake similar study tours of foreign countries.
The 10 to 12-day "study tour" of the Estimates Committee comprising MLAs from all parties will cover holiday destinations such as Rio De Janerio, Manaus, Iguassu, Lima, Cusco, and Buenos Aires, besides Dubai.
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 junkets come at a time when many taluks in the state have been declared drought-hit, with central teams visiting the affected regions after the state government sought funds to grapple with the situation.