New Delhi: Nearly half
of parliament's 21-day long winter session has been lost to
protests mainly over foreign equity in retailing, leaving the
government's elaborate legislative agenda unsettled.
With the opposition and some members of the ruling United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) vociferously seeking withdrawal of the
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail, the stalemate over the
key reform and other issues continued for the ninth day.
Both houses of parliament were adjourned till Wednesday minutes
after they sat after eight days of similar protests over various
issues, including price rise, Telangana and a Kerala dam.
The houses will now resume sitting only on Wednesday. Parliament
will have a four-day extended weekend. It was scheduled not to run
Monday, while Tuesday is a holiday on account of Muharram, the day
of Muslim mourning. The current session ends Dec 22.
However, the four-day break has given the government enough time
to chalk out a strategy for ending the current logjam.
According to PRS Legislative Research, a policy study group, the
two houses have already lost 96 hours work of the scheduled 99
hours. Which means the two houses have sat for only three hours in
the first nine days of their business.
Devika Malik of PRS Legislative Research told IANS: "Hard to
predict when the logjam ends. We hope it ends on Wednesday."
Malik pointed out that there was "an elaborate legislative agenda
with 22 new bills" to be settled for this session.
"When such a situation arises, legislation is rushed through, and
there is less time spent on debating bills. Basically, parliament
compromises on the time spent on debate. Since 2009, at least 17
percent of bills were passed within five minutes (of debate)," she
Besides the time lost, wasting every business hour of parliament
means crores of rupees in tax payers' money going down the drain.
Based on the annual budget allocation for parliament, Rs.2.5 crore
is spent on both houses every day. Accordingly, the nine days of
paralysis of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha may have cost the
exchequer Rs.22.5 crore.
The scenes in parliament on Friday were familiar. Presiding
officers of the two houses first cancelled the Question Hour to
meet again at noon. They then adjourned both the houses for the
day when the MPs met again amid din.
In the Lok Sabha, opposition and some members of the Trinamool
Congress created an uproar to press for their demand to revoke the
cabinet's FDI decision.
As soon as Speaker Meira Kumar took up the Question Hour,
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Basudeb Acharia
(CPI-M) rose to protest the new reform decision. He was joined by
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Murli Manohar Joshi.
Joshi had earlier in the week given a notice for an adjournment
motion under a rule that entails voting.
The notice has not been rejected but the government is wary to
accept it because if it loses the vote, it will have to withdraw
the decision to allow 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand
retailing and 100 percent in single-brand format.
There were other issues as well. MPs from Kerala flashed placards
demanding a new dam in place of the over century-old Mullaperiyar
Dam, which is located in Kerala but the waters are used by Tamil
In the Rajya Sabha, protests started as soon as Chairman Hamid
Ansari started the session.
The house resonated with slogans against FDI. Members from the BJP,
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party and the AIADMK
protested noisily, creating a bedlam in the house.
Ansari first adjourned the house till noon, and then again till