13/20: another low-yield parliament session ends (Roundup)

September 7th, 2012 - 7:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) Parliament’s monsoon session ended Friday with 13 of the 20 days washed out due to BJP protests over coal block allocations and the bitter stand-off set to continue as the opposition party declared that its stir would spill over on the streets and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh castigated the “total negation of democracy”.

Slamming the Bharatiya Janata Party for stalling parliament, the prime minister said it was “total negation” of democracy and wanted all “right thinking” people push for normal functioning of institutions.

The 2012 monsoon session was only a shade better that the 2010 winter session that was entirely lost due to BJP demands for a Joint Parliament Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum allocations.

The monsoon session saw the houses functioning only on the first seven days since it began Aug 8.

The 13 day loss meant Rs.29 crore (nearly $6 billion) went down the drain, considering that Rs.25 lakh is spent an hour on an average for a parliament sitting.

The cost is arrived at based on the parliament budget for a 80-day sitting a year, with at least five hours of proceedings a day.

The last day of the monsoon session saw both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha disrupted from the word go, leading to both houses being adjourned sine die.

“We take pride in the fact we had a functional democracy. But what we have witnessed in this session is total negation of that,” Manmohan Singh said outside parliament.

BJP members continued with their demand for Manmohan Singh’s resignation triggered by the Aug 17 Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report of a Rs.1.86 lakh crore ($37 billion) presumptive loss in coal block allocations.

Beginning Aug 21, no day went by in parliament without the BJP MPs trooping towards the presiding officers’ chairs raising slogans, forcing adjournments.

The government, which slammed the BJP for disrupting parliament, wanted the opposition to come to the house and debate the coal blocks allocation. But that was not to be.

“We have great respect for the institution of the CAG and we do respect this institution. We must be willing to debate its finding in the Public Accounts Committee and even on the floor of the parliament which we have always been willing,” the prime minister said.

Reacting sharply to the prime minister’s criticism, the BJP said it was its democratic right to protest, including inside parliament, against corruption.

“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,” Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said.

She was referring to the 2001 sting operation by web portal Tehelka exposing bribery in defence purchases, after which then defence minister George Fernandes had to resign, and the scandal over money being siphoned for the purchase of coffins for martyrs of the Kargil battle.

“Not allowing parliament to function is also a form of democracy like any other form,” Sushma Swaraj added.

Backing her, BJP leader Arun Jaitley called irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks, a “textbook case of crony capitalism”.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, amid all the din in the two houses, could get only six bills passed during the entire session, though it had set for itself a target of getting 30 draft legislations considered and passed.

It could also get six bills introduced in parliament, including the draft legislation for providing quotas to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes during promotions in government jobs, a move that divided its own allies.

While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was all for the law, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the DMK wanted similar quotas for other backward classes.

When the quota bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Avtar Singh Hakimpuri and Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Naresh Agrawal got into an ugly scuffle.

The government had planned to introduce at least 15 bills in the session.

Around 100 bills are pending before parliament, including some over 20 years old, such as the ones on land acquisition, Lokpal, whistle blowers, money-laundering, companies, banking and forward contracts regulation.

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