Both Houses of Parliament were today adjourned sine die, with unabated protests virtually washing out a tumultuous Budget Session that saw a total of nearly 250 working hours wasted.
Merely five of 19 starred questions were replied to orally by Ministers in the Rajya Sabha, while 17 of the 580 such questions were answered in the Lok Sabha during the 29 sittings.
The notices of no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against the government could not be taken up in the Lok Sabha that witnessed protests by various parties.
While Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu asked the protestors not to make the Rajya Sabha a “clog in the wheel” of progress, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said they should keep in mind the larger interests of the nation.
The disruptions and adjournments were caused by protests over issues like special status to Andhra Pradesh, bank scams, demand for Cauvery water management board, vandalising of statues, review of the recent Supreme Court order on SC/ST Act and law and order situation in Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh.
The second leg of the session, that started on March 5, had 22 sittings that were mostly disrupted.
In her summary report, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the House functioned for a total of 34 hours and 5 minutes during the 29 sittings.
A total of 127 hours and 45 minutes were affected by “interruptions and forced adjournments”. Around 9 hours and 47 minutes went in to transact urgent government business in the Lower House, Mahajan said.
Of the 580 starred questions, answers were given to only 17 of them in the floor of the House, which translates into 0.58 questions being answered on an average each day. Written replies for remaining starred questions and 6,670 unstarred questions were tabled in the House.
Just five bills, including the crucial Finance Bill 2018 for which the Budget Session is convened, were passed and five were introduced during the Budget session in the Lok Sabha.
Besides, The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and The Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2017 were among those passed.
“This House is a sacred platform for members to raise issues related to public interest and public welfare,” Mahajan said even as she emphasised that they need to keep in mind the larger interests of the country.
The last day of the session was also marred by protests by AIADMK and Congress members over setting up of the Cauvery river management board as well as by TDP members demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh.
“Today is the last day. If you are not ready… I will adjourn the House sine die,” a visibly peeved Mahajan told agitating members.
She also said she wanted to take up the notices for no- confidence motion. “I am sorry… if you don’t want to take up (notices for no-confidence motion,” she said and proceeded to read out a brief summary of the Budget session and its second leg which began on March 5.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House.
Members from both the AIADMK, TDP and the Congress holding placards trooped into the Well even before proceedings began for the day. While most of them left the Well after the Speaker’s appeal, the TDP members remained in the Well when Mahajan was reading out the closing statement.
The Rajya Sabha witnessed similiar scenes with the Chairman voicing anguish over missed opportunities.
“I am pained to note that it turned out to be an eminently forgettable one on account of utter disregard of the mandate of this important parliamentary institution and its responsibilities and missed opportunities,” Naidu said in his concluding address to the 245th session of Rajya Sabha.
The House lost nearly three-fourths of its time to disruptions and adjournments. During the second leg of the session, the Rajya Sabha had 30 sittings in all. While it sat for 44 hours, the Upper House lost over 121 hours.
The Question Hour could not be taken up for 27 days “due to pandemonium and interruptions in the House over one or the other issue”, Naidu said, noting that there was a “total breakdown” in communication among various sections of the House that was “at the root of the prolonged stalemate that ruined the session.”
“This is not good for our parliamentary democracy of which our country has come to acquire a pride of place,” he said, adding “we are all losers. This includes the opposition, the ruling party, the government and most importantly, the people and the nation”.
Referring to the House not transacting any substantial business during the second part of the Session, Naidu wondered if the fears of those who doubted the need for a Second Chamber during Constituent Assembly debates were coming true.
He recalled that during these debates on the need for a Council of States, some members feared that it would prove to be “a clog (impediment) in the wheel of progress” involving expenses and not making much contribution.
Jawahar Lal Nehru, who headed the Union Constitution Committee for reporting on the structure and function of the future legislature of the country, had feared in 1936 that a Second Chamber will check any forward tendencies of the Lower House and will be reactionary, Naidu said.
“Are we making Nehru’s worst fear come true? We should not, for the sake of our parliamentary democracy and the people,” said Naidu.
He said: “Let us not be a party to this House becoming a ‘clog in the wheel of progress'”. Instead, the members “should dispel the fears” expressed by Nehru, who despite having reservations about the utility of the Upper House, had supported its coming into being.
“You need to rise to the expectations of those who strongly justified the need for this House in the Constituent Assembly,” Naidu said.
Due to the disruptions, the House could not debate the important Finance Bill 2018, but passed the payment of gratuity law without debate.