Parliament's budget session comes a cropper

Budget session 2013 of Parliament, that came to an end on Wednesday, may go down in history as one of the least productive sessions which passed Rs 16 lakh-crore central budget without any discussion and only two bills -- besides the customary money bills – received the lawmakers’ nod.

Total productive time in the Lok Sabha was cut down to only 49 per cent whereas Rajya Sabha was a tad better with 52 per cent productivity.

Bulk of the productive time belonged to the first half of the budget session that began on February 21 and continued till March 21. Both general and railway budgets were passed in the first half.The second half was a washout with principal Opposition BJP making it clear it would not let Parliament function unless heads roll for scams concerning allocation of coal blocks and high-level appointments in Railways in which key ministers are allegedly involved. The draft report of the joint parliamentary committee on 2G allocation too was a cause of contention.

As a consequence, total government spending of Rs 16.6 lakh crore was approved by the Lok Sabha without any debate, says an analysis made by PRS Legislative Research, a non-governmental organisation that monitors Parliament proceedings.

The MPs missed out on the opportunity to put the government on the mat as the question hour was taken up for only 23 per cent of allotted time in the Lok Sabha and for 30 per cent of scheduled time in the Rajya Sabha.

Of the 640 starred questions in Lok Sabha, just 37 were answered. In Rajya Sabha, the ministers provided answers to only 49 questions. There were no starred questions in 16 out of 32 days in Lok Sabha and for nine days in Rajya Sabha.

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari's proposal to shift the Question Hour to the second half of the day had not found favour with the government and Opposition parties.

Notwithstanding the nation-wide outcry about lack of safety for women, the Lok Sabha spent exactly three minutes on passing the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill. The elders, however, debated the bill for three hours. The only other bill passed by Parliament was the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill.

As many as 116 bills are pending before Parliament, including 14 bills of finance ministry and 12 bills of human resource development ministry.
A large number of bills on the wait list are from the ministries of Home (nine bills), Law and Justice (nine), Health and Family Welfare (eight), Labour and Employment (seven), Agriculture (six), Consumer Affairs (five) and Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension (five).

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