Kerala Assembly Speaker Sreeramakrishnan has landed in a controversy over purchasing a pair of spectacles for nearly Rs 50,000 and getting the amount reimbursed from the cash-starved state exchequer. The controversy has taken the CPI(M)-led LDF government by storm as the disclosure of the information concerning costly glasses emerged the day after Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac presented the Kerala Budget 2018-2019 in which he spoke of stringent rules to curb excessive expenditure in order to tide over the financial crunch.
Not only pricey spectacles, the speaker also got Rs 4.25 lakh reimbursed between October 5, 2016 to January 19, 2018, according to an RTI filed by Advocate D B Binu of Kochi. The legislature secretariat in the RTI broke down the cost for glasses and stated that Rs 45,400 was the cost for the glasses and Rs 4,900 for the frame amounting total cost to Rs 49,900.
The alleged exploitation of position at the cost of the state exchequer came to light after a similar RTI filed involving Health Minister K K Shylaja had unearthed another controversy. The RTI showed that she purchased spectacles worth Rs 28,000 and got it reimbursed from the exchequer. There were also allegations that Shylaja had forged documents to claim reimbursement of medical expenses for her husband. After BJP state general secretary K Surendran filed a complaint that Shylaja had cost the exchequer Rs 93,000 for her husband’s medical bills,the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau started a preliminary probe on the complaint. It is to be noted that according to Member of Kerala Legislative Assembly (Medical facilities) Rules, 1994, the speaker and MLAs are entitled to seek medical bill reimbursement.
Sreeramakrishnan, according to The Indian Express, said that he bought the costly lenses as per the recommendation of his doctor to cure his eye problem and he was left with no choice. As per reports, it also came to light that Sreeramakrishnan’s Rs 4.25 lakh bill was an accumulative total of medical expenses for him, his mother, wife and son.
Advocate Binu said that in 2004, then Speaker Vakkom Purushothaman had even put a cap on the reimbursement of the price of spectacles frames saying it should not exceed Rs 5,000 after it was found that huge amounts were being claimed by members.