Kerala Assembly speaker Sreeramakrishnan has found himself in the eye of the storm, after it was revealed on Saturday that the CPI (M) leader spent nearly Rs 50,000 on a pair of spectacles and got the amount reimbursed from the state exchequer.
This was revealed in an RTI query filed by Kochi-based advocate DB Binu. According to the reply, speaker Sreeramakrishnan billed a total of Rs 49,900 for a pair of spectacles, claiming Rs 4,900 as charges for the frame and Rs 45,000 for the lens.
Reports say that a cap on reimbursement for spectacles was put in place in 2004 according to which, the cost of the lens shouldn't exceed Rs 5000. While Sreeramakrishnan's reimbursement for the frame was given as Rs 4,900, the cost of the lens went up to Rs 45,000.
According to reports, the speaker has also claimed reimbursement to the tune of Rs 4,25,000 as medical reimbursement between October 2016 and January this year.
The revelation that the state bore expenses of what is being seen as an exorbitant amount for a pair of spectacles, has now come to haunt the state government. This, especially since the news broke just a day after the state budget was released. In the budget for 2018-2019 released on Friday, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had stressed that the government should bring down expenses in the wake of the financial crisis in the state. For this purpose, he had said that the government will not buy new vehicles.
The controversy also gains prominence as it comes only months after a similar controversy erupted around Health Minister K Shylaja. In February last year, the minister had got a reimbursement of nearly Rs 28,000, against her bill for buying a pair of spectacles. Minister Shylaja's action was widely criticised at the time.
However, just like Minister Shylaja claimed that she had bought the expensive spectacles on the advice of her doctor, speaker Sreeramakrishnan too, chose to play down the issue.
"The spectacles was brought following the instruction of my doctor," a smiling Sreeramakrishnan told the media.