Monsoon Hungama: 4/32 Bills Passed & Over 70% Time Lost

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The Times of India, September 08, 2012

The monsoon session of Parliament ended on a bitter note on Friday with a mere four bills being passed and almost 75% of the time wasted due to disruptions by BJP in the month-long session.

As the government released statistics of how Lok Sabha wasted 77% of the time and Rajya Sabha 72%,the Opposition hit back by saying stalling Parliament was also a form of democracy. Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal blamed BJP for disrupting Parliament and not allowing any legislative business. Against the target of passing 32 bills in this session, the government could pass only four in both Houses. Before the session, we had identified about 32 bills to pass. We had hoped to pass at least 20 bills. Right before the session, I had a meeting with the chief whips of all parties who gave a list of issues they wanted to discuss in Parliament. The plan was to discuss one issue and two calling-attention motions every week. All the parties had assured the government of their cooperation. But with just one report (CAG report on coal block allocation causing a presumptive loss of.1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer ),the entire session was washed out. This is the first time that any party has said there is no point in holding discussions in Parliament, Bansal said.

The minister tried to give a monetary aspect to the time wasted. Parliament is run for about 80 days in a year. The entire set up that we have and we run for 365 days is basically for those 80 days. So if we divide the budget allocation over these 80 days and for six hours a day, I have worked out that the per minute expenditure in running our Parliament is.2.5 lakh. Now you can see how much money has been wasted, he said. When asked whether MPs should be allowed to draw their allowances for the wasted session, Bansal said, I agree with this sentiment. I had moved a private members bill some years back which said that MPs should not be able to draw allowances if there is such wastage of time.

BJP rejected the governments math and said if the government were to cancel the coal blocks and auction them instead, it would more than make up for the loss caused due to a complete washout of the monsoon session. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said, This accusation that we are wasting taxpayers money by boycotting the House does not hold water. Three years ago, when we boycotted the winter session of Parliament over 2G scam, the same accusation was laid at our door. But our sustained pressure on the government led to a situation where the base price for auctioning 2G is.14,000 crore, which is far more than what it was allocated for earlier and what was spent on Parliament session then. The same will happen with coal, where auction will yield bounty for the exchequer far in excess to what it costs the government to run the monsoon session in government. It may be noted that cancelling of 2G licences and direction for auctioning them was done by the Supreme Court, following a public interest litigation. It had nothing to do with Parliament blockade by the Opposition.

Swaraj also reminded the prime minister that his party had done the same over coffin-gate. “I would like to remind the prime minister, when he was leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, they had stalled Parliament over the Tehelka issue. Even over the coffin scam, they stalled Parliament and called us coffin thieves, “said Swaraj. “Not allowing Parliament to function is also a form of democracy like any other form, “she contended, reacting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that BJP’s stalling of Parliament was negation of democracy. The prime minister says time has been wasted and this issue could have been discussed. Sad part is that ending corruption was nowhere in his statement, Swarajs Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley said. We blame corruption for the loss of the session. Jaitley also claimed that loss of this session will help in cleaning up corruption in allocation of natural resources. “By disrupting Parliament, we have given out a message to the country. When we disrupted Parliament three years back on 2G scam, the telecom sector was cleaned. Now, the country is faced by the issue, how to cleanup the entire process of allocation of resources, “he said.

Sushma Swaraj also defended her partys stand of not allowing a debate without cancellation of allocated coal blocks, saying experiences have shown debates make no difference. “They asked us to hold debate either under an adjournment motion, Rule 184,or Rule 93,”she said. Under adjournment motion, debate is taken up after adjourning question hour, followed by voting by voice vote. In discussion under Rule 184 in Lok Sabha, there is a voting following debate as well. Rule 193 is debate without voting. “Debate under 193 would mean a talk out by the government and walkout by opposition. If we would have taken debate under (rule) 184,they would have won because they have numbers. Numbers however do not give the license to loot the country, “she said.

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