M A I N   N E W S

Question Hour cut short as MPs play truant
Of 38 who had to put up queries, 31 were absent
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
Parliamentary decorum hit another low today, with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar having to adjourn the Question Hour half an hour before the scheduled time due to the absence of members who were to ask questions.

Of the 38 MPs, who had starred questions listed against their names in list, 31 were absent, while one --- CPI’s Prabodh Panda --- could not pose the query as he was busy in the well of the House, protesting against the deputation of a Central team to Lalgarh in West Bengal.

In financial terms, the curtailment of Question Hour means a loss of lakhs to the exchequer, considering it costs the nation Rs 37,000 per minute to keep the Parliament ticking; that works to around Rs 22 lakh per hour or Rs 1.7 crore per day.

These are old estimates based on the parliamentary budget of Rs 437 crore for 2003-2004. By now, these would have risen just like the cost per MP which was around Rs 1.58 lakh in the 1980s but shot up to around Rs 55 lakh by 2003.

Given the mass absence of MPs today, including the younger lot represented by the likes of the Congress’ Shruti Choudhary, the BJP’s Varun Gandhi and Anurag Thakur, the BJD’s Baijanta Panda and the MIM’s Asasudin Owaisi, the Speaker had to wind up the Question Hour at 11.30 am.

Ironically, she had earlier resisted attempts by the Left parties, the SP and the BSP to stall the proceedings in the wake of the government’s decision to send a Central team to the Naxal-hit Lalgarh to monitor the situation there.

The Left, led by CPM leader in the Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharia, had given a notice for the suspension of Question Hour --- something Meira Kumar had rejected and explained, saying: “The Question Hour has as such been exploited enough. Let it go on. You can raise your issue during the Zero Hour.” The Speaker was also heard this morning pleading with the MPs to maintain peace, and even while she was at her legs, the commotion went on.

She, however, kept the Question Hour going despite the Left storming the well of the House. Little had she known the future of the proceedings, with only three of the 20 listed questions being taken up due to the absence of MPs. In normal course, the Speaker rarely gets to go beyond four questions. But today, only three questions — related to expansion of NREGA, infiltration across international borders and routing of international calls — were asked.

Among the important questions that had to be dropped today was the auction of 2G spectrum, involving IT minister A Raja.



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