The Telegraph
Thursday , June 26 , 2014
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Guillotine galore: off with debates

Calcutta, June 25: The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to guillotine the budget discussions of 15 departments, including seven held by the chief minister, continuing a trend the administration started after coming to power in 2011.

The budgets of the departments, including land and land reforms, minority and madarsa education, hill affairs, information and cultural affairs, tribal development, home (constitution and election) and personnel and administrative reforms, will be passed on July 7 without any discussion.

Only an hour has been allotted by the business advisory committee of the Assembly to get the budgets of the 15 departments passed. The window will allow a mere mention of the departments concerned, followed by the customary ayes from the treasury benches, sources said.

Guillotining, in Assembly parlance, means passing departmental budgets bypassing discussions, where the Opposition gets the opportunity to ask questions that could be unpalatable for the government.

“The word guillotine is used as MLAs are disallowing from speaking on a budget, thereby eliminating a debate on the performance of the department and the minister overseeing it. It might be a harsh term but is not inappropriate,” an Assembly official said today.

Since 2011, the Trinamul government has passed many department budgets without discussions.

Asked about guillotining by the government, a minister said: “How long will the Assembly continue debating the performance of departments?”

Opposition parties have often accused the chief minister of skipping discussions in the Assembly. The Left has staged several walkouts demanding that Mamata answer questions on the functioning of the departments under her.

The leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPM, iterated the Left stand today.

“It’s clear that land is not the priority of the government. Apart from Singur, the government does not seem to have given any thought to the problems over land in Bengal. This is how it has been going about budget proposals since coming to power,” he said.

“Never in the past had budget discussions on the crucial land and land reforms department been guillotined. It’s unfortunate that the chief minister wants to avoid the House,” Mishra added.

Echoing the CPM leader, Congress MLA Manas Bhuniya said: “Land and minority welfare are sensitive departments. Land is a contentious issue in the state and a detailed discussion was required this time.”

The Left government had also guillotined departmental budgets many times. For several years, the Left administration had guillotined discussions on the budgets of the sports, excise, backward classes and hill affairs departments.

“But there was no political reason behind it. May be, carrying on with Assembly sessions became useless in some cases because there was little business of importance to transact in the House,” a CPM leader said.