BENGALURU: has made austerity the government motto, but the spending on legislators’ perks tells another story. At a time when call and data tariffs have plummeted, legislators take home up to Rs 20,000 a month on telephone allowance; their medical bills running into lakhs are reimbursed, though most never go to mandated government hospitals.

Every legislator is entitled to Rs 20,000 per month towards and the amount is credited as part of their salaries. A staff of the assembly secretariat said legislators don’t have to provide bills to claim the amount. As a result, the state exchequer is losing nearly Rs 7.2 crore on telephone allowances of 299 legislators (including 75 MLCs) every year.

Activists wonder why the state government is shelling out such a hefty amount when the aam aadmi gets unlimited calls and data packs for just Rs 500 for 80-90 days.


Former govt spent Rs 16 crore on treatment of MLAs, kin

It shows how legislators are misusing taxpayers’ money. When we are getting unlimited calls and internet for just Rs 500 for three months, MLAs are pocketing Rs 60,000 for three months as phone allowance. Let the government give them two Sim cards instead of one, but let them stop the allowance,” said RTI activist Bhimappa Gadad from Belagavi. “Most MLAs go incommunicado and their personal assistants handle their calls.”

The spending on medical treatment is far more. The Siddaramaiah government spent a whopping Rs 16 crore on the treatment of sitting and former legislators and their families. About Rs 5.7 crore was spent on sitting MLAs and over Rs 10 crore on former MLAs.

Acknowledging the issue of soaring medical bills, speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had recently issued a circular to all MLAs, through legislative assembly secretary S Murthy, asking them to avail treatment only in government hospitals, barring emergencies. He has also warned that bills of MLAs who get treated at private hospitals without considering the option of government hospitals will not be cleared.

“Instead of reimbursing hefty bills from its coffers, the government should get medical insurance to all legislators,” suggested anti-graft activist Ravi Krishna Reddy. “Many firms offer health insurance at an affordable annual premium. It will also avoid scope for corruption.” Reddy said government hospitals, including Bengaluru Medical College Hospital and Victoria, are well-equipped to treat all kinds of diseases. “Why can’t legislators go there? If they don’t want to go to government hospitals, the government must stop reimbursing their medical bills,” he said.

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