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The cost of adjournments

Frequent disruptions of Lok Sabha proceedings are a huge drain on the exchequer, writes Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 15:16 IST

In May 2005, education department officials in Tamil Nadu sought a grant of Rs 21 crore to expand the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan programme in Madurai district. A year later, the Punjab government began a project to provide clean drinking water and a better sewerage system at the cost of Rs 21 crore for the citizens of Khanna city. Also, 70 lakh people can be tested for HIV for Rs 21 crore.

There is, however, another way to spend Rs 21 crore of taxpayers’ money. Disrupt Lok Sabha proceedings. And that is what has happened during the 14th Lok Sabha, which had its first session in the middle of 2004. During the eight times it has met, Rs 21.66 crore has been lost because of repeated interruptions and adjournments in Lok Sabha.

At present, the cost of running Lok Sabha is Rs 11,22,829 per hour. The number of hours that have been lost in Lok Sabha since 2004 is 192.91.

Another disturbing, but related, trend is being noticed. Due to regular interruptions, the number of days that Parliament meets to conduct business is decreasing. This year, for example, Parliament has met for only 57 working days. If Parliament functions for all 20 days of the coming winter session, it will still fall well short of the 100 days per year as recommended at the Speakers’ Conference a few years ago.

“For about 10 years after Independence, Parliament used to meet for 120 days a year. It decreased to 100 after that. Now, Parliament does not even meet for 100 days,” said CPI leader Gurudas Das Gupta.

One school of thought says disruptions are necessary at times to bring focus on a burning issue and time lost during sessions is compensated when various parliamentary, standing and business advisory committees meet. “It is more than compensated by the other work done by MPs. This kind of calculation is not proper,” said the BJP’s VK Malhotra. The Congress’ Abhisekh Singhvi said: “The situation can only be improved by a serious all-party meeting and (arriving at a) consensus to implement several rules to prevent any disruptive tactics."

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First Published: Oct 30, 2006 13:45 IST