The Lok Sabha secretariat rushed a special messenger to Africa on Tuesday to get speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s signature on expenditure documents so that the government can fulfil additional financial obligations of Rs 1 lakh crore before March 31.
The expenses include Rs 15,000 crore for the national food security programme, Rs 5,000 crore to fund public sector banks and Rs 2,000 crore for military hardware. The additional budgetary proposals or the third supplementary demand for grants were approved by both Houses of Parliament by March 16 but the Lok Sabha secretariat could not get the speaker’s signature on the file delayed by the law ministry.
By the time the file came from the law ministry, the speaker left for Zambia’s Lusaka for the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly to return on March 25. An additional secretary of the Lok Sabha flew to Lusaka on Tuesday to get her signature to save time.
Without the speaker’s signature, the file could not be sent for President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent to complete the legislative process.
A section of the government felt there was no need to rush a messenger to Africa, but Lok Sabha secretariat sources maintained they did not want to take chances and avoided a delay.
“The process (of getting approval) is still underway. The papers have not yet reached the President. As per the process, the Lok Sabha secretariat sends it to the law ministry and then the law ministry sends it to the President for his consent,” a senior finance ministry official said.
Sources said the government asked the secretariat if deputy speaker M Thambidurai could sign the file or if Mahajan’s approval could come through fax. “The secretariat turned down both options, citing issues of precedence,” a government official said.
The demand for grants contains India’s Rs 69,000 crore subscription to the International Monetary Fund. The government also sought funds to pay Rs 77.55 crore towards “settlement of pending dues to Pakistan Telecom Company Limited”.