Budget Session Ends, Oppn Accuses Govt Of Skirting Debate On Price Rise

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The budget session of Parliament ended a day ahead of schedule on Thursday with the Rajya Sabha recording 100% productivity—when lawmakers clock in all their hours—and the Lok Sabha doing even better at 139%, the chairs of the two houses said.

Each house cleared 11 bills including the one to merge the three municipal corporations of Delhi and The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill giving law enforcement agencies widespread powers to collect biometrics.

Members of parliament sit from 11am to 6pm with a two-hour recess, and productivity can outstrip 100% when they continue working past 6pm.

The premature end of the session—this is the sixth in a row to be adjourned ahead of schedule—set off a political debate with the Congress accusing the government of avoiding a debate on price rise.

“In the Business Advisory Committee (panel to decide the House agenda), the government managers agreed to discuss the fuel price situation, thinking they could manage the situation. But after the fuel prices soared higher and even kerosene, the fuel for poor families, was not spared, the government quickly wrapped up the session to avoid any debate,” said Congress’ Lok Sabha floor leader Adhir Chowdhury.

The government rejected the charges, with parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi claiming “the opposition MPs themselves had requested that the House should adjourn a day earlier than the scheduled closing date. At the Rajya Sabha BAC (business advisory committee) meeting the MPs asked for the house to be adjourned on account of the Ram Navami celebrations.”

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge argued, “We cooperated with the government in passing the bills. If the Lok Sabha had 139% productivity and the Rajya Sabha nearly 100%, the credit goes to the Opposition. But we wanted to discuss how, in spite of crude prices going down, the retail prices of petrol diesel, CNG, LPG are going up. But the government insisted that we take it up in the supplementary budget discussions.” Joshi said: “I just want to highlight one thing…there was full discussion on the Finance Bill, Supplementary demand for grants, Jammu and Kashmir Budget, everything was allowed.”

Speaking outside Parliament, a senior BJP functionary who asked not to be named said the opposition had an opportunity to raise the issue of price rise of essential goods and food items during the discussion on the appropriation bill and the finance bill.

Congress chief whip Jairam Ramesh, meanwhile, said that the Opposition was ready to discuss two more government bills, “But the government was not prepared to bring them for passage. It showed that the government didn’t have enough business for the session.”

The budget session, divided over two parts, lasted a total of 27 days. The Lok Sabha worked for 177 hours 50 minutes while the Rajya Sabha worked for 127 hours 54 minutes.

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