The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More the merrier for MP toilers

New Delhi, Dec. 21: They are hard at work running the country: often shouting down speakers, stampeding out in protest and sometimes legislating.

But our MPs are enjoying the taxing task so much that they are asking for more work.

Members of most parties have suggested at a meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee that Parliament sit for at least 100 days a year.

They felt that the House is transacting less business now compared to the glorious decades that have gone by.

Reeling off statistics with an alacrity that was not seen when the price rise was discussed in a near-empty House recently, some members pointed out that the House would sit for about 150 days during the 1950s and 140 days till the 1970s. But the sittings have been reduced now to 60-80 days.

Lost in the foliage of figures was another piece of statistic: each MP gets a daily allowance of Rs 500 for a sitting of the House.

But senior Congress leader and leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee did ask what purpose would be served if proceedings are disrupted frequently.

Mukherjee said he was not against increasing the sittings, but added that it would not be useful to have 140 sittings of which 70 days might be wasted by disruptions and adjournments.

Pointing out that the burden of increased sittings will fall on taxpayers, he asked: 'Do you think people are fools'

Reacting sharply, BJP deputy leader of the Lok Sabha V.K. Malhotra said: 'Why blame us' It (protest) is our democratic right.'

Mukherjee said he was not blaming the BJP, adding that the constituents of the ruling United Progressive Alliance also held up the House when they were in Opposition.

He sought an assurance from Malhotra that proceedings in the House would not be disrupted come what may, but the BJP leader refused to make a commitment.

Chatterjee said he had no problem with the suggestion if the government was willing to consider it.

Samajwadi Party leader Ramjilal Suman was the lone dissenter. He said MPs have a lot of work to do when the House is not in session like attending standing committee meetings and utilising their development funds.

'Do not insist on increasing the number of sittings. As it is we are unable to spare time for the people in the constituency,' he said.

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