CPM Leader’s ‘Spectacular Specs’ Worth Rs 50K

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Thiruvananthapuram: A day after Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac called for strict austerity measures while presenting the Budget on Friday, it has come to light that Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan has got Rs 49,900 reimbursed from the state exchequer for his spectacles.

Sreeramakrishnan, a CPI(M) leader, also claimed Rs 4.25 lakh on account of medical reimbursement in 15 months between October 2016 and January 2018, according to details received by an RTI activist.

The cost of Sreeramakrishnan’s lens was Rs 45,000, and the frame cost Rs 4,900, according to reply to an RTI application filed by D B Binu, an advocate.

This comes close on the heels of a similar RTI revelation involving Health Minister K K Shylaja, also a senior CPI(M) leader, who had bought spectacles worth Rs 28,000 and got the bill reimbursed from the exchequer.

Shylaja is also facing a preliminary probe by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau after BJP leader K Surendran complained that she had forged documents to get her husband’s hospital bill, amounting to Rs 93,000, paid from the public exchequer.

The Speaker and MLAs are entitled to claim medical reimbursement as per Member of Kerala Legislative Assembly (Medical facilities) Rules, 1994.

Sreeramakrishnan said he acted as per his doctor’s recommendation. “The doctor said my eye problem could be solved only (by) using costly lens. Hence, there was no choice for me. However, I have opted for a less expensive frame, which was my choice,’’ he said.

A source in the Speaker’s office said the reimbursement of Rs 4.25 lakh included cost of treatment of the Speaker, his son, daughter and mother. “All the bills are genuine. He has undergone costly ayurvedic treatment outside Kerala for arthritis. A recent treatment session alone costed Rs 1 lakh,’’ the source said.

The source said his mother is completely dependent on Sreeramakrishnan.

RTI activist Binu said in 2004, then Speaker Vakkom Purushothaman had directed that price of spectacles frames should not exceed Rs 5,000 after it was found that MLAs opted for expensive frames at the cost of the state exchequer.

Binu claimed that Assembly Secretariat has not given copies of bills submitted by Sreeramakrishnan.

Presenting the budget, Issac on Friday sought curbs on foreign tours and buying expensive vehicles by officials and departments. The Assembly rules do not specify any limit on the amount a member can claim as medical reimbursement — for both his/her and family members’ treatment. They say that the cost of spectacles can be reimbursed only once during the ensire tenure of a member.

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