A day after Kerala Assembly Speaker Sreeramakrishnan landed himself in a controversy over claiming nearly Rs 50,000 from the state exchequer as reimbursement for buying a pair of spectacles, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has found himself in a similar row.
According to reports, LDF minister Thomas Isaac got Rs 1.20 lakh reimbursed for taking a 14-day treatment at an Ayurveda centre in December 2016. Of the total billed amount from Kottakkal Arya Vaidyashala, Rs 80,000 amounts to accommodation charges, say reports. The minister was granted reimbursement even for 14 bath towels he used during the period of his treatment.
This has stirred a controversy in the context of the minister presenting the state budget for 2018-2019 just last week and stating that the government was looking at means of cost-cutting to tide over the financial crisis.
Questions were also raised as to why the minister chose to go to take treatment at a private clinic in Malappuram when there was a government-run Ayurveda facility in Thiruvananthapuram.
Minister Thomas Isaac invited much ire for his actions even from the BJP.
BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan came down heavily on Thomas Isaac, saying that the people of the state did not have the liability to take care of sick and luxury-seeking ministers. Kummanam went on to ridicule the minister, saying that the latter had claimed reimbursement even for the bath towels and the pillows from the state exchequer.
‚ÄúThe Finance Minister who assess the financial condition of the state has himself spent lakhs for treatment at a private hospital. The same minister who asks the public to spend their money carefully has claimed reimbursement even for pillows and bath towels! Never before has Kerala had any government that is as hypocritical as this one is,‚ÄĚ Kummanam said.
He also went on to attack the LDF state government, saying that its own ministers did not trust government doctors, but wants the public to seek treatment from government hospitals.
James Committee report ignored?
The Kerala government had appointed the James Committee to come up with a report on regulating the medical benefits of MLAs. The report is said to contain recommendations to restrict the medical expenses of MLAs.
Proposing a Rs 60,000 limit on out-patient treatment expenses, the report is said to recommend provision of medical insurance if in-patient treatment is required. With regard to spectacles, the legislators are allowed to claim a maximum of Rs 10,000 once every five years.
However, though the report was submitted six months ago, the state government is yet to implement it. Unofficial sources say that this is due to failure to reach a consensus on the report.
A day after the budget was presented, it was revealed that the Assembly Speaker had claimed Rs 49,900 as reimbursement for buying a pair of spectacles and that his total medical reimbursement for the past two years had run into nearly Rs 4 lakh.
In 2017, Health Minister KK Shylaja too courted a similar controversy after claiming reimbursement for spectacles worth Rs 28,000.