The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sparks fly after civic bill surprise

Calcutta, July 25: The government today postponed the passing of an amendment bill on the Calcutta Municipal Corporation till an unspecified date, sparking uproar in the Assembly.

Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim also sought an apology from urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, who was scheduled to place the bill in the second half of today’s session.

Bhattacharya, who was away attending a meeting of the finance commission, rushed to the House as soon as he learnt that the Speaker had chastised the government for springing the surprise postponement through another minister.

Legislators from the Opposition Congress and Trinamul Congress charged the government with keeping the House in the dark about the bill, which found its way into a section of the media, including The Telegraph.

“It is unfortunate that the bill could not be passed today though it was a part of today’s business. The House needs an explanation and the minister (Bhattacharya) will be required to inform the House what had happened and how the press got hold of the bill before the members did,” the Speaker said. “This shows the functioning of the government is not in a very happy state.”

Opposition leaders said they were angry as the bill sought to substantially increase trade enlistment fees in the city, spelling an additional financial burden on thousands of small and medium traders. The Telegraph had reported today that the government was set to increase trade licence fees from Rs 10 to a whopping Rs 2,500.

Halim called for the immediate presence of Bhattacharya and asked parliamentary affairs minister Prabodh Sinha and chief whip Rabin Deb to ensure that in future all ministers are present in the House when important matters concerning their departments are taken up.

The commotion started in the afternoon when Sinha announced that the bill would not be placed before the House today.

Apologising for the postponement, he said the bill could not be passed due to a delay in distributing its copies among members. He said there was a mechanical fault in the press where the copies had been sent for printing. They would be available only at 7 pm, Sinha added.

Opposition MLAs, including Subrata Mukherjee, Pankaj Banerjee, Ashoke Deb and Sovandev Chatterjee of the Trinamul and the Congress’ Abdul Mannan, demanded an explanation from Bhattacharya for staying away from the House.

Mukherjee urged the Speaker to seek an explanation from the minister regarding The Telegraph’s report on the aims and objectives of the bill.

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