Government has, however, maintained that all parties were sounded out on this move and there was a near consensus on this before the decision was announced. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told ET that Congress and other parties should “first set their house in order” before their leaders speak against the decision.
“Before taking a call on this issue, I and other senior ministers have talked to all parties. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had discussed this issue with Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and AK Antony in my presence. TMC Parliamentary Party leader (of both Houses) Sudip Bandhopadhyay had agreed to this decision though Derek O’Brien did not accept it. Asadudin Owaisi (AIMIM) had also not agreed,” Joshi said.
The minister underlined that this decision has been taken due to the extra-ordinary situation caused by the pandemic.
Sources have maintained that written or unstarred questions will be entertained and members will be given answers to their queries on functioning of the government. Moreover, this change has been made only for the monsoon session and Question Hour is likely to return during the Winter session. The Opposition can corner the government during debates on various issues in the session. However, some members feel Question Hour could have been allowed a few days in this session.
The Opposition demand holds water but Question Hour also has the worst record in terms of performance as it is the most disrupted period during all sessions. In August 2014, Vice President Hamid Ansari- who was perturbed with frequent disruptions of the Question Hour- chaired a meeting of the General Purposes Committee of Rajya Sabha which decided to change the timing of from 11-12 am to 12-1 pm, swapping it with Zero Hour.
Data shows this has had a limited impact as between 2015 to 2019, Rajya Sabha has functioned only 60% of the time during Question Hour.
During 2015-19, the Upper House held a total of 332 sittings, which would mean 332 hours of Question Hour at the rate of one hour for each sitting. Of this, only 133 hours and 17 minutes was spent on raising questions and obtaining oral replies from the concerned ministers. This comes to utilisation of just 40 per cent of the allocated time.
Actual time spent on Question Hour was 18 hours and 7 minutes in 2015; 34 hours 48 minutes in 2016; 35 hours and 48 minutes in 2017; 14 hours and 29 minutes in 2018 (the lowest); and 30 hours 40 minutes during 2019.
Time spent on Question Hour crossed 50 per cent of available time only once (in 2017) between 2015-19.
Joshi said written replies will be given to questions and only the supplementaries and oral questions cannot be put up. “Question Hour is not the only slot where opposition can question the government,” he said, adding that as soon as “normalcy is restored” Question Hour will be back, hopefully during the winter session.
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3 Comments on this Story
Paridhan Mitra145 days ago
Not to worry, take every decision as a precedent and follow the same in future by every party whosoever comes to the centre. This way every one enjoys power for at least 5 years without the worry of opposition.
sandeepan pahari146 days ago
What's the problem in limiting the 'zero hour' for just monsoon session ? the facts and figures don't point towards the opposition having massively utilized or been constructive during zero hour in the past
Binu Pillai146 days ago
While others are wasting time in the parliament, Modi sitting home and feeding peacocks.. ha ha .. Who cares about question when full majority in hand .. ??