Thirty-one assembly committees in Jharkhand and counting

May 21st, 2008 - 10:41 am ICT by admin  

By Nityanand Shukla
Ranchi, May 21 (IANS) There are a whopping number of assembly committees in Jharkhand, set up to look into various issues related to governance. But legislators cutting across party lines admit that these exist more on paper and are exploited by the members of these panels for various benefits. Right now the state has 31 assembly committees, each with at least three members. These members are entitled to beacon lights, one personal assistant and one peon.

The members are legislators from ruling as well as opposition parties and are entitled to travel allowance, dearness allowance and fuel while moving in the state for committee work.

These committees are formed to look into the interests of people in the state where 52 percent of the population lives below the poverty line (BPL).

“The assembly committees are gradually becoming toothless. On many occasions, officials do not attend committee meetings. And successive state governments do not take their recommendations seriously either,” said Pashupatinath Singh, an opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator.

“It is the responsibility of the state government to make the committees stronger so that people related issues can be addressed.”

Echoing his view, Sukhdeo Bhagat, a legislator of the ruling Congress and chairperson of the NREGS Committee, said: “Members are responsible for deterioration of the committees.

“Members do not take committee meetings seriously. If this situation prevails, it will devalue the image of the assembly.” NREGS is the much touted rural jobs scheme of the central government.

Besides assembly committees, there are also special committees formed by the speaker. Till now seven special committees have been formed to probe different issues.

Take, for example, the Hat Gamaharia road of West Singhbhum district. During the winter session in December last year, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) raised the issue of a hike in budgetary provisions for the 45-km road from Rs.100 million to Rs.1.64 billion.

Under pressure from the opposition members, the assembly speaker constituted a special committee. It made its first visit to the site last week - and no one knows when the report will be submitted to the state government.

Even special committee recommendations are not take seriously by the state government. Take the example of Meinheart, a consultant company from Singapore that was asked to prepare a detailed project report of the sewerage system of Ranchi.

The previous NDA government had appointed Meinheart as the consultant at a cost of Rs.220 million. The then opposition members alleged irregularities while awarding the consultancy.

A special committee was formed and the submitted its report to the present Madhu Koda-led United Progressive Alliance government. The committee indicted some urban development department officials but no action was taken against them.

“I have started the process of making the committees effective and change their image, which are largely seen as existing only so that members can make use of various allowances,” said Aalamgir Aalam, assembly speaker.

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