Turning away from the House

With winter in Delhi arriving before Diwali this year, it is clear that no one can predict the weather these days, just like its political climate. All eyes are on the coming winter session of Parliament. Murmurs can be heard wondering whether the House will function smoothly. The last winter session was washed away not by storms, but by the 2G spectrum controversy. Two cabinet ministers were compelled to resign. The government understood the wisdom of the opposition's demands only after wasting an entire session of Parliament, and decided to constitute a joint parliamentary committee. This past monsoon session witnessed unprecedented disruption and it was spent on another set of corruption allegations, this time regarding coal block allocations.

Both the Congress and the BJP seemed to enjoy that situation, since they appear to be afraid to discuss the issue within Parliament. They were found discussing various aspects of the alleged scams on TV channels without addressing the root cause. While watching the parties on TV, one wondered why they did not use Parliament for this debate. Why are they not ready to discuss these issues within Parliament? Is it because of the diminishing role of Parliament in one of the world's largest democracies? If so, who is responsible?

In his concluding remarks at the last session of Parliament, the chairman of the Upper House, the vice president, took stock of the session. "Out of 399 starred questions listed, only 11 could be answered orally. The Question Hour could be conducted only once during the 19 days... Four matters of urgent public importance in the form of calling attention were listed but could not be discussed... Altogether, about 62 hours were lost on account of disturbance." Who is responsible for this? Neither alliance can wash its hands off the issue.

Why do the NDA and UPA shun effective debate in Parliament? Is it because both want to save face? The NDA had moved the bill to amend the coal mines act to give a free hand to private parties in coal mining. Both the UPA and the NDA were for the privatisation of natural resources in our country. While we hear stories on the big corruption cases that have rocked the conscience of the reasonable common man who voted for these parties, we should be aware that all of them are related to the privatisation of natural resources, which these parties have vouched for. Spectrum and coal are natural resources, but there is a significant difference between them. Spectrum is not diminished by use, but coal is different. Coal is also essential for the generation of power, which is why there is a need for government control over its mining and distribution. It is the dilution of this line of thinking in order to benefit corporations that paved the way for these controversies.

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