Winter Session of Parliament Bouquets And Brickbats
With the last winter session of Parliament (2010) setting a record of sorts with the Lok Sabha working for 5.3 per cent of its scheduled time and the Rajya Sabha for 2.1 per cent functioning normally for only one working day throughout the session and being adjourned, one hopes the upcoming 9th session of the 15th Lok Sabha slated to begin its winter session from November 22 will not suffer similar fate.
There are indeed many issues that the opposition and ruling coalition would clash on during the month-long winter session. But what remains to be seen is whether there would be debate in both Houses of Parliament or it would meet the same fate as the winter session of last year did. What is indeed ironical is that the ruling Congress-led UPA coalition appears to be giving issues virtually on a platter to the opposition to pick and choose ranging from hike in petrol prices, downturn in industrial growth touching an all time low of 1.9 per cent in September from 6.4 per cent in the same time last year, the virtual spectator attitude towards the Manipur crisis, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh calling his Pakistan counterpart Raza Shah Gilani a “man of peace,” among the major ones which the opposition is set to target the government.
Manipur is definitely a major issue that the government would have to deal with on almost a priority basis as it is now more than 100 days that a blockade is on in the state by the two tribal groups of Nagas and Kukis and with hardly any movement from the Centre to resolve this major crisis. This has indeed given an opportunity to the opposition BJP to attack the government. “We are indeed going to raise the issue of Manipur where even the Chief Minister Ibobi Singh belongs to one of the 30 plus underground groups that are operating in the state and all the central funds are being taken by these groups,” said former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha who visited the state for two days.
If there is one remark that has to be taken note of is what Sinha was told by the residents of the state: “If it had been any other state in the country, the centre would have taken an immediate note of such a development.” This is surely an indication that the people of Manipur feel alienated and what is typical of most North-Eastern states is that they do not belong to the mainstream. It is indeed a serious issue that this apathy towards these states is abandoned and more serious note taken of the developments in this part of the country.
Besides, there are indeed many crucial legislations such as Food Security Bill, the Lok Pal Bill and the Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill as also issues like price rise, 2G spectrum scam, cash-for-votes scandal that are expected to dominate the session and with social activist Anna Hazare holding out the threat of an indefinite fast if the Lok Pal Bill is not passed, the government sure has its hands full. On the issue of corruption, it is indeed ironical that even while all political parties strongly support any move to end it, at the ground level it seems otherwise. For as can be seen, there is hardly any political party whose some leader or other is not involved in some corruption case or the other. It is indeed a case of pot calling the kettle black. It is indeed significant to note that India has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) which the G20 Summit held in Cannes recently hailed as one of the “most significant” individual achievements in the fight against graft.
In a resolution of December 4, 2000, UN General Assembly recognised that there was need for an effective legal instrument to tackle corruption independent of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime what was needed was an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The text of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was negotiated during seven sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of the Convention against Corruption, held between January 21, 2002 and October One, 2003.
An entire chapter of the Convention is dedicated to prevention, with measures directed at both the private and public sectors. These include model preventive policies such as the establishment of anti-corruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties.
States must endeavour to ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards, says the Convention. Of course not to forget December six which like an annual ritual since 1992 demolition of the structure in Ayodhya has always led to both Houses of Parliament being stalled. As also the anniversary of December 13 attack on Parliament which unfortunately does not seem to be given priority as was seen last year when it fell on a Sunday and barely handful of MPs attended the function to honour those who gave their lives to save these members. With the hike in petrol prices and strong protests from key allies like Trinamool Congress and National Conference who would now be joined by the Opposition in Parliament, it sure is going to be tough going for the UPA coalition. Coupled with this is the spiraling prices of essential commodities and though the monsoon session had discussed it and censured the government, yet, it appears to have had no impact.
Surprisingly the opposition BJP is more focused on black money and corruption with its top leader LK Advani taking out his Jan ChetnaYatra to highlight these issues while there was indeed an imperative need to mobilise public opinion on the issue of price rise. With almost every session being stormy and the upcoming one too being described in what has become a clichéd description, it is high time now that both the ruling and opposition parties ensured that some business was conducted and not use the occasion for just a face-off. The month-long winter session is indeed going to be one of tight rope walk for the UPA government as the sword of Damocles of Team Anna’s massive campaign for the approval of Jan Lokpal Bill hangs over its head. Anna Hazare’s stand not to vote for the Congress and subsequently the BJP getting mileage form it have posed several problems for the ruling party before assembly elections in 2012. The biggest challenge that lies ahead is to present the Jan Lokpal Bill giving it a constitutional status.
Passing the Land Acquisition Bill remains yet another major challenge before the government. Another interesting aspect of the upcoming winter session would be the stand taken by allies like DMK which has been none too happy considering that Ms Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK Supremo M Karunanidhi continues to languish in Tihar jail on the 2G spectrum scam issue as also another key leader A Raja and yet another Dayanidhi Maran too appear to be in serious trouble. Out of the 75 pending bills, including Food Security Bill, Whistle Blower Bill, Nuclear Security Bill and others had to be passed in the last session of the Parliament.
The government is indeed going to face severe flak on the Kodunakulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu which has seen strong agitations going on against it and the ruling AIADMK of Chief Minister Ms J Jayalalithaa too has been opposing the project.
By Sri Krishna