Opposition’s Part Win On Question Hour, Written Answers Will Be Given

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NDTV, September 02, 2020

After a huge outcry over the scrapping of Question Hour in parliament for the coming session, the government has said it would allow “unstarred questions” — meaning written questions that will receive written responses. The modification came shortly after the government’s claim that that Question Hour was dropped only after discussions with opposition leaders and at the time, no one but Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’ Brien had objected.

Mr Joshi, who said this to NDTV, added that TMC’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, has agreed to the move. “It is not good that after agreeing, leaders start saying in public that they don’t agree,” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.

The plan to drop Question Hour in the short parliament session that would begin on September 14 after a five-month gap, triggered a huge row, with various leaders accusing the government of stifling the voice of the opposition.

With session timings cut down to roughly four hours a day, the government had done away with Private Members’ business, the hour set aside for bills put up by MPs. The Zero Hour — slotted for members to raise matters of public importance — was limited to 30 minutes.

The opposition’s contention is that such a schedule gives them no opportunity to raise and discuss matters they consider important. Among the most vocal is Derek O’Brien, who has accused the government of “murdering democracy” in the name of coronavirus.

Today, Mr Joshi said, “We discussed the option to drop the Question Hour and issued notification only after everyone agreed except Derek O’Brien. All senior members requested that it should be wound up as early as possible.

“Rajnath Singh and I spoke to all the senior leaders. We spoke to all major and minor parties. Except Derek O’Brien, no one objected. Everyone said there is a pandemic situation, so we agree. Sudip Bandhopadhyay agreed. He is the leader of Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha,” Mr Joshi added.

The minister also said other opposition leaders like Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad, Janata dal Secular chief HD Devegowda and Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar have agreed.

But shortly after, Congress’s Anand Sharma tweeted his reservations, calling the decision “arbitrary, shocking and undemocratic”.

“Parliament Sessions are not meant only for government business but also scrutiny and accountability of Government,” Mr Sharma tweeted.

“Delayed monsoon session of Parliament is one of special significance after the lockdown and phased unlocking. proposal to exclude Question hour is arbitrary, shocking and undemocratic. It is Members privilege and the very life of a session,” another tweet read.

Mr Azad and Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Choudhury said they have written to the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker not agreeing with the curtailing of the Question Hour.

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