Opposition not convinced with Modi Government’s reason to suspend Question Hour
The first day of Lok Sabha session opened with roaring calls against ruling government’s move to suspend Question Hour in the house, citing coronavirus pandemic as the reason. With the ongoing events including government’s means of controlling pandemic situation, vaccine development, trampling of labour rights, massive contraction of Indian economy and increasing border tensions with China, government which is required to answer important questions, chose to shut the process all together.
On Monday, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion regarding business of the House regarding the suspension of the Question Hour and Private Members Bills. In a unanimous voice, the motion was opposed by the Congress, TMC and AIMIM. The opposition leaders urged the Modi government to revisit its decision over suspending Question Hour. Floor leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the government cannot suspend Question Hour, which has been an important means for both the Opposition and the treasury benches to question government.
Chowdhury said, “Question Hour is a golden hour. The minister’s reason to cancel Question Hour is not convincing. We had Question Hour even during British Rule. When the House can run, why not have Question Hour?” He called it an attempt to strangulate Indian democracy and asked, “When the House can run, why not have Question Hour?”
“Delayed monsoon session of Parliament is one of special significance after the lockdown and phased unlocking. The proposal to exclude Question Hour is arbitrary, shocking and undemocratic. It is Members’ privilege and the very life of a session,” tweeted Congress’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma.
Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party leader (Rajya Sabha) Derek O’Brien raised the similar issue emphasising that suspension of Question Hour was equivalent to taking away Opposition’s right to question the government. He said that number of hours allotted for discussions in the upcoming monsoon session was similar to what was available in the pre-pandemic sessions. “The government says that they have allowed the Zero Hour in which matters of urgent importance can be raised, but one has to remember that the Ministers are not liable to reply to the issues raised during the Zero Hour,” he said.
In response to the increasing calls for reintroducing Question Hour, the Defence Minister and Deputy leader of the House, Rajnath Singh said, “Since the session will run for hours, we had requested that the Question Hour should be suspended. Instead, I said that an half an hour Zero Hour where MPs can raise issues would be available. I want to make a polite request and need the cooperation of the members.” Singh added that he had spoken to Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury over the matter and he had agreed to it.
“These are extraordinary times. Most political leaders had agreed to this arrangement. Unstarred Questions are being allowed. If you are not satisfied with the answer, you can raise it during Zero Hour,” said Singh said in the parliament.
Slamming the government’s move to mute its opponents, Congress leader Manish Tewari referring to the rule said that Question Hour can only be suspended if the decision is unanimous, which clearly wasn’t the case.