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Globetrotter Shatrughan plays truant again

New Delhi, Nov. 20: Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha again failed to show up in Parliament despite a piece of legislation being listed against his name on the business list.

Sinha was to move a proposal for the repeal of the Countess of Dufferin Fund Bill in the post-lunch session in the Rajya Sabha. But minister of state for health A. Raja stood in for Sinha and tabled the proposal. Sinha’s staff said he was still in the US and is expected to return tomorrow.

The Bill is not an important one — it deals with scholarships for medical students and nurses which the government felt was redundant as it has instituted other awards — but the business transaction list is.

The business transaction list has weathered the test of time and retained its venerated place on the House pedestal. If any minister cannot attend the House, officials are usually informed beforehand to ensure that his name is not put on the list. In such an eventuality, the junior minister’s name will be included — unlike today when Sinha’s name was on the list but his junior colleague had to reply.

The Union health minister undertook the foreign trip against the advice of his colleagues in the ministry. The officials felt that Sinha should not leave the country on the eve of the winter session and should instead concentrate on doing his “homework” to be able to answer questions on the floor of the House.

Till now, the minister has been dependent on bureaucrats even for basic information on matters of health and family welfare.

Sinha was invited to the US by the Association of Indian Physicians in Chicago.

However, in the face of persistent requests from his team, Sinha agreed to reschedule a part of his tour.

The minister cancelled the second leg of his trip to Senegal, where he was supposed to attend an international seminar on vaccination.

This is not the first time that Sinha has been absent from Parliament. Ever since he took charge of the health ministry, he has been an erratic visitor to both Houses.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan had pulled up Sinha once for failure to turn up in the House to answer questions though he was present in the capital.

According to ministry sources, neither the reprimand nor adverse media reports are having any impact on Sinha. “There is speculation that he may be replaced. This could be the reason why he is continuing to be on a world tour instead of being in office,” said an official.

The current trip to the US is one in a chain of half-a-dozen abroad since he took charge at Nirman Bhavan — a fact that has not endeared him to his colleagues.

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