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House not in order: Maharashtra cancels Nagpur Assembly session after rain, power cut

The state Assembly’s monsoon session is usually held in Mumbai, but this year the government shifted location despite being advised not to; proceedings will resume on Monday.

mumbai Updated: Jul 07, 2018 11:54 IST
Rain,Nagpur rain,Maharashtra assembly session
Heavy rain in Nagpur forced the state to cancel its Assembly session on Friday.(SUNNY SHENDE/HT)

For the first time in 57 years, the Maharashtra government was forced to cancel Assembly proceedings of both Houses of the state legislature on Friday, after heavy rain in Nagpur caused power failure and water-logging.

The last time Assembly proceedings were suspended because of power failure was in August 1961. The monsoon session of the state Assembly is usually held in Mumbai, with Nagpur only hosting the winter session. Nagpur has hosted the monsoon session only thrice before, in 1961, 1966, and 1971.

The power supply to the building was hit as the transformer room, located below the Vidhan Bhavan campus, got water-logged. Proceedings will resume on Monday.

The government had insisted on holding its monsoon session in Nagpur despite the local administration asking it not to, and warned that such a situation may arise.

Even though Friday’s rainfall was unusually high, months earlier, the administration had cautioned the government. “Except for a few ministers from Vidarbha, nobody was in favour of holding the monsoon session in Nagpur instead of Mumbai,” an official from the legislative secretariat said. “Apart from the additional arrangements for the session, the local administration was doubtful about being able to prepare for it in just the three months that they got after the decision. Officials from the Public Works and general administration departments had expressed their reservations during meetings held by the ministerial committee,” the official said.

Officials had raised other issues as well, including arranging accommodation for the staff, and making office space for the legislators. “As the winter session is held for two weeks every year, most of the government offices and accommodations are rented out to other organisations on lease. After the decision to hold the monsoon session in Nagpur, it was difficult to vacate them midway and cancel the agreements, a PWD official said, on the condition of anonymity. “A lot of government staff and police force from other districts have also been deployed in Nagpur. This creates scarcity in their respective districts during the monsoon. The police personnel stay in temporary tents during the winter session. Accommodating them during the monsoon has become difficult.”

The official added that staff with the responsibility of the maintaining the Vidhan Bhavan building did not get enough time to prepare for the session.

Officials from the GAD said the decision to shift the session to Nagpur has also increased expenditure. “We had to arrange for waterproof pandals where ministers are staying, and air-conditioners at the MLA hostels, ministers’ bungalows and staff quarters,” an official said.

Those at the Vidhan Bhavan on Friday said the waterlogging in the backyard was caused by the dumping of trash, including empty beer bottles near the manhole, blocked the flow of water, resulting in its levels rising close to the electrical installations. Sensing danger from the live power supply and rains, the staff turned off the power supply.

Leader of the Opposition in the legislative council, Dhananjay Munde, hit out at the government over the lack of planning, and its decision to change the venue. “We were apprehensive about the monsoon session being in Nagpur when the proposal came before the business advisory committee. I could not understand the sudden decision,” he said.

The embarrassment also prompted Shiv Sena leader and transport minister Diwakar Raote to blame the BJP government for the blackout. “When heavy rains lash Mumbai and waterlogging is reported, the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC is blamed for the mess. What has happened here today, BJP needs to explain.”

“The BJP-controlled Nagpur Municipal Corporation should have provided basic infrastructures and amenities to ensure smooth functioning of the house proceedings during rainy days,” said another Sena member, Sunil Prabhu.

The guardian minister for Nagpur and minister for energy, Chandrashekar Bawankule, however, said the electricity supply was disconnected because of water-logging.

The second capital of the state, Nagpur hosts the winter session of the state legislature while Mumbai has been hosting the budget and monsoon session for years.

First Published: Jul 07, 2018 00:51 IST