Home Dehradun Yet another short Vidhan Sabha Session concludes

Yet another short Vidhan Sabha Session concludes


By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 17 Mar: It appears that for both, the government and the Opposition, Assembly sessions have become a mere formality. Yet another session, this time in Bhararisain (Gairsain), was adjourned sine die yesterday after four days of sitting totalling just 21 hours and 36 minutes. Each year, the sessions have been getting shorter but the in past one year, sessions have been as short as just two days and as long as merely four days. Usually, the budget session is expected to be longer than other sessions as, besides the tabling of the budget, the Opposition is also expected to participate in the discussion on the budget and highlight its deficiencies in detail. This time, Leader of the Opposition, Yashpal Arya, Pritam Singh, Sumit Hridayesh, Bhuwan Kapri, Harish Dhami and Gopal Singh Rana did participate in the discussion on the budget but it was held at a rather superficial level. One reason was that the discussion was held on the next day to the budget’s presentation, which also turned out to be the concluding day of the session. In this session, even the Question Hour became a casualty to other factors. The question hour was held only for three days as the first day just comprised the Governor’s address and the second day, it became a casualty to the ruckus created by the Opposition Members. Interestingly, neither did the ministers appear to have done their homework properly to respond to the questions asked by the members, nor did the members appeared serious enough to ask supplementary questions in greater public interest. The supplementary questions appeared intended more at causing some trouble to ill prepared ministers rather than elicit useful information from them. Interestingly, it was after a long time that a session began on a Monday which is the day when the Chief Minister has to respond to the questions related to his departments under his charge. One usually expects the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to be fully prepared to answer questions on behalf of the CM, but the Governor’s Address was held on that day. Hence, in the past few years, the trend of the members not being able to get answers related to the departments under the charge of the CM has continued. In all, 603 questions were asked during the session, of which 180 were starred questions responded to by the ministers in person. In addition, 8 short notice questions were accepted and also answered by the ministers. The rest were unstarred questions, on which supplementary questions are not permitted and they usually get responded to in writing only.

Also, one has not seen any recent assembly session stretching beyond four days or to the next week! The standard response to media’s questions on the short sessions by the CM or the Parliamentary Affairs Minister is that the government did not have any business left. However, this appears to be a pretext to keep the sessions shorter. Even if there is no legislative business left, two days could have been assigned to discuss the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s address and two days to discuss the budget in the just concluded budget session for example. This alone would have stretched the current session to more than a week. However, no one could have cared any less.

The Opposition members, Yashpal Arya and Pritam Singh, did accuse the government of curtailing the session to just four days. But the Opposition members too appeared to be in a hurry to get the session over quickly. Gone are the days, when assembly sessions evoked general public interest and one could expect some serious and in-depth discussion and good speeches.

Generally, three assembly sessions are summoned every year. Article 174(1) of the Indian Constitution says, “The governor shall from time to time summon the house or each house of the legislature of the state to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.” Hence, generally, three sessions are summoned. While it is true that the total number of sittings even in Parliament have reduced significantly over the past two decades, the Parliament still sits for at least 62 days in a year. However, the average annual sittings in terms of number of days each year in Uttarakhand is among the lowest in the country, averaging just about 15 to 18 days. On the other hand, the average sittings in the Odisha assembly in recent years have been 58, Karnataka also above 50 followed by Kerala. Even UP has a sitting of more than 27 days but Uttarakhand is continuing to be among the lowest ranking states in terms of annual sittings.