New Delhi: Nearly half of parliament’s 21-day long winter session has been lost to protests mainly over foreign equity in retailing, leaving the government’s legislative agenda unsettled.
With the opposition and some members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) vociferously seeking withdrawal of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail, the stalemate over the key reform and other issues continued for the ninth day.
Both houses of parliament were adjourned till Wednesday minutes after they sat after eight days of similar protests over various issues, including price rise, Telangana and a Kerala dam.
The houses will now resume sitting only on Wednesday. Parliament will have a four-day extended weekend. It was scheduled not to run on Monday, while Tuesday is a holiday on account of Muharram, the day of Muslim mourning. The current session ends on Dec 22.
However, the four-day break has given the government enough time to chalk out a strategy for ending the current logjam.
According to PRS Legislative Research, a policy study group, the two houses have already lost 96 hours work of the scheduled 99 hours. Which means the two houses have sat for only three hours in the first nine days of their business.
Devika Malik of PRS Legislative Research said, “Hard to predict when the logjam ends. We hope it ends on Wednesday.”
Malik pointed out that there was “an elaborate legislative agenda with 22 new bills” to be settled for this session, adding, “When such a situation arises, legislation is rushed through, and there is less time spent on debating bills. Basically, parliament compromises on the time spent on debate. Since 2009, at least 17 per cent of bills were passed within five minutes.”
Besides the time lost, wasting every business hour of parliament means crores of rupees in tax payers’ money going down the drain. Based on the annual budget allocation for parliament, `2.5 crore is spent on both houses every day. Accordingly, the nine days of paralysis of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha may have cost the exchequer `22.5 crore.
The scenes in parliament on Friday were familiar. Presiding officers first cancelled the Question Hour to meet again at noon. They then adjourned both the houses for the day when the MPs met again amid din.