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Budget passed without debate
PM moots code of conduct as Oppn stays away
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 26
Parliament adjourned sine die today, almost a week ahead of schedule, after passing the Union Budget without discussion as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed the hope that disruptions and boycotts of proceedings would not take place again.

The session, which began on July 5, was scheduled to end on September 3 but ended six days before schedule as the NDA continued with its protests on the arrest of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti, Petroleum Minister Manishankar Aiyar’s “disrespect” of freedom fighter Veer Savarkar, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s alleged “discourteous behaviour” to an Opposition delegation.

In an obvious effort to avoid a constitutional crisis, both the government and the BJP-led Opposition had evolved a formula to ensure smooth passage of the key finance business as the NDA said it would not allow any other transaction, except for the Budget proposals, to take place.

But yesterday’s incident in the Prime Minister’s chamber, during which Dr Singh rejected an NDA memorandum over Budgetary amendments, enraged the Opposition, which boycotted last day’s proceedings in both Houses.

The Rajya Sabha passed and returned the Rs 500,000-crore Finance Bill to the Lok Sabha that had passed it earlier in the day. The Opposition also boycotted the Upper House as per a decision taken at the NDA’s Parliamentary Party meeting.

In both Houses, a visibly upset Dr Singh reminded that power was a societal obligation and that it had to be used for the welfare of the people and not for “narrow, sectarian” interests.

In his brief speech in the Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister admitted that the members had “failed” to come to the expectation of the Chair and said the time had come for all political parties to evolve a code of conduct and behaviour both inside and outside Parliament.

“We are a very poor country. We have to reach the poorest sections of the country. We have to tax even the poor to raise resources. It is our duty to ensure that the money that is voted is properly utilised,” the Prime Minister remarked.

Dr Singh said people have high expectations from their elected representatives and if they do not function properly it is a matter of concern.

He assured the fullest possible cooperation of the Treasury benches and hoped that the Opposition would act in accordance with prescribed parliamentary norms and procedures.

The Prime Minister made a similar appeal in the Lok Sabha also and expressed the hope that the recent happenings involving Opposition boycott and disruptions would be “a thing of the past”.

Later, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee lamented that the premature adjournment of the Lok Sabha — which was scheduled to have 30 sittings spread over 180 hours — allowed the House to sit only for 24 days during the Budget Session.

Of these 24 days, the House lost over 47 hours of valuable time because of disorderly scenes that prompted abrupt adjournment, Mr Chatterjee pointed out.

He said that on as many as seven days of the session business transacted by the House was almost negligible.

Late sittings compensating around 13 hours also became insignificant in the light of the huge amount of time that was lost because of disturbance.

The Speaker said that out of the 441 starred questions admitted during the Session, only 48 in all could be answered because of disruptions of the Question Hour on many of the days.

Thus, on an average, only about two starred questions could be answered orally per day, he pointed out, adding a total of 4,225 unstarred questions were also admitted.

In his concluding remarks, the Speaker regretted that the Railway Budget and the Demands for Grants in respect of the General Budget and the Finance Bill had to be passed without discussions owing to continued disturbance and forced adjournments of the House.

In spite of the Chair’s efforts and repeated earnest appeals in the House and during several meetings with the leaders, no debate could take place over various important issues confronting the nation, the Speaker said.

“My humble effort efforts have proved to be inadequate and it is my great sorrow that all the attempts of the Chair to see that the House functions normally and that important businesses before the House are transacted after debate and participation by the members have not had the desired result,” he observed.

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