Bangalore: A contingent of 11 Karnataka MLAs arrived here today after completing a nearly fortnight-long foreign tour unfazed by criticism and controversy at home.

The MLAs flew in here in the early hours via Hong Kong after covering Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for their “study” tour, with Chairman of the Backward Classes Committee of Karnataka Legislature B R Yavgal saying, “We learnt of poverty and how people here must open up.”

“We didn’t go for dance. We visited farms, dairies..,” he said, appearing unperturbed by the controversy for undertaking the trip when many parts of the state were hit by drought.

Yavgal said some areas were suffering from drought but “we have not done anything wrong.”

“Many have gone in the past so many years, why is it such an issue now. You should have questioned it 7-8 years (ago).”
The committee left for Sydney via New Delhi on December 21 last and was expected to depart Australia on January five, according to the tour itinerary but reached home today.

On criticism about taking their families, Yavgal said, “we spent personal money….”    “You have the right to question me. But we have certain privileges. And our speaker granted, and we went,” he told reporters.

Asked if the legislators needed a foreign tour to learn that the people need to open up, he said, “Yes. It is. We need to go outside. Globalisation is something to learn from.”

“We have studied a few things….,” said Basavaraj Neelappa, a member of the Committee.

Yavgal said they would submit a report in a month.      Another group of MLAs has completed a 12-day tour of Australia, while one more panel has put on hold its trip of three South American countries of Brazil, Argentina and Peru after the controversy erupted.

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 planned were the “exuberant ecosystems of Rio’s tropical urban jungle” and shopping at Manaus to “experience rhythms of Samba, Tango and Paraguayan music during dinner and a show at a local restaurant.”

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