A distinction, indeed!

A distinction,  indeed!

The group of legislators headed by the Speaker that visited tribal areas of Visakhapatnam district must have developed an insight into the problems...

The group of legislators headed by the Speaker that visited tribal areas of Visakhapatnam district must have developed an insight into the problems faced by adivasis, but it has not resulted in any tangible decisions. School children in 17 fluoride-affected mandals of Nalgonda district have, however, been getting milk and egg with the mid-day meal; pregnant women are given nutritious food under a welfare programme, Amrita Hastam
The lawmakers were never so indifferent. They have been mere spectators to the lawlessness inside and outside the House. The insolence of the lawmakers has been forcing citizens to turn lawbreakers. Even in the worst days, some demands were discussed seriously and some of the problems faced by the people were examined and solutions found by the members. The 13th Assembly, whose term would end in less than a year, has been particularly noisy, obstructionist and unproductive. But for a couple of innovative ideas coming from Speaker Nadendla Manohar and a single good Act made by the government, there is nothing honourable or memorable to write about the way MLAs and MLCs have conducted themselves. Petty political considerations, negative tactics and one-upmanship have been the hallmarks of the sessions held so far. The Congress party had promised to have Assembly sessions on not less than a hundred days in a year. The total number of days when this Assembly met till the end of the first half of the Budget session were 163, according to Speaker's secretariat. At least 34 out of the total 563 hours the Assembly was in session were wasted in shouting, sloganeering, gesticulating, trading charges and rushing to the podium. All the three budget sessions earlier were marked by the same futile exercise forcing the Speaker to guillotine most of the demands. This time around, the Speaker came out with a good idea to set up Standing Committees to discuss important demands and make recommendations to the government. It is a saving grace for the otherwise lackluster legislature. The other initiative worth mentioning is to take the people's representatives to the tribal areas of Visakhapatnam and Adilabad districts and the fluoride-affected areas of Nalgonda district. On the flip side is the political decisions taken by the Speaker in the case of disqualification of the MLAs who violated the party whip. Appointment of Standing Committees is not entirely an original idea. It has been in vogue in half a dozen other States for years. The method is taken seriously in States like Kerala, Tripura, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh. In all, 12 Standing Committees were appointed with each committee having not less than 13 members; 183 members were involved in this exercise. The Committees were supposed to meet in April soon after the recess was announced on presenting the Budget proposals in March. The second half should have started in May. But due to the disqualification problem, May was avoided. It dragged on to June second week. Why not May? There were 18 MLAs who had defied party whip during the vote on the second no-confidence motion against the Kiran Kumar Reddy government. Had the Speaker taken action against the erring MLAs in May, as sought by the legislative wings of the Congress and the TDP, by-elections would have become inevitable. The whole idea was to avoid by-elections which neither the ruling party nor the main Opposition party wanted. The YSRCP, a new party that was formed after the present Assembly had been constituted, also was not keen on by-elections, though it has been saying that both the Congress and the TDP are working in tandem. The second no-confidence motion was voted upon on March 16, 2013. The CLP and the TDLP filed petitions before the Speaker urging him to disqualify the members who violated the whip. Speaker Nadendla Manohar had literally sat on the file throughout April and May and started acting just two weeks ago. It was clearly a political consideration that was not in conformity with the rule book which the Speaker ought to have followed. It is, however, a technical point nobody wants to contest or dilate upon. Due to this aspect, the second half of the Budget session commenced on June 10. As vote on account was taken at the outset, there is no difficulty for the government as far as appropriation is concerned. The Standing Committees are going to do a lot of good if the government also takes them in a democratic spirit. Each committee had five sittings. As the proceedings were in-camera, no political debate or diatribe ensued. The demands were examined in a sober fashion without political overtones coming in the way; 36 demands were discussed in all. The committees made positive, unbiased and objective recommendations. The Union government usually implements about 90 per cent of the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committees. How many of the recommendations the State government will take up earnestly remains to be seen. Vital issues like method of giving contracts for works under Jalayagnam have been examined and appropriate recommendations made. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who appears to be keen on being seen as a tough administrator who means to go by rule of law, would be doing a favour to the people and to himself and his own party if he takes up a majority, if not all, of the recommendations positively. The group of legislators headed by the Speaker that visited tribal areas of Visakhapatnam district must have developed an insight into the problems faced by adivasis, but it has not resulted in any tangible decisions. School children in 17 fluoride-affected mandals of Nalgonda district have, however, been getting milk and egg with the mid-day meal; pregnant women are given nutritious food under a welfare programme, Amrita Hastam. The SC ST Sub-Plan act for which a special session of the Assembly was held goes to the credit of the government. The move was supported by all political parties and the government had played a constructive role in making it possible. This Act is a vindication of the inclusive politics which was responsible for the success of direct action by Dalit bodies, political parties and other activist groups. There were many firsts for this Assembly. It was the only Assembly in which the leader of the House was killed in a helicopter crash. That led to the second-in-command, K Rosaiah, taking the mantle which he could not keep for a year. Later, he was appointed Governor of Tamil Nadu. The then Speaker Kiran Kumar Reddy was given an opportunity by the Congress high command to shoulder the responsibility without powers to drop a minister or change a portfolio. In recent times voting was held in the Assembly for the first time to elect Speaker and Deputy Speaker. While Nadendla Manohar has won over KE Krishna Murthy of the TDP, Bhatti Vikramarka defeated Suddala Devaiah, a TDP MLA. The Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), which contested the elections, won 18 seats and sat with the Opposition in the 13th Assembly, has merged with the Congress while some members of the Congress Legislature Party went out to join the new party, YSRCP. YSR's widow, Vijayalakshmi, contested Pulivendula by-election and became a member of the House. She had also to take up the responsibility of running the fledgling party in the absence of her son, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, president of the YSRCP, who has been languishing in jail. This House was witness to many such vicissitudes. The MLA of Tekkali died soon after the elections and his wife, Bharati, was elected in the by-poll. However, the same courtesy was not extended to the wife of Rajeswara Reddy of Mahbubnagar. This Assembly had the mortification of seeing 34 of its members disqualified. It is a record of sorts. There were more than 40 by-elections in the life of this House. Some of them were caused by the TRS when its members resigned as a protest against the attitude of the UPA government. While three sitting members, including YS Rajasekhara Reddy, died causing by-elections, some Congress and TDP MLAs resigned from their parties and membership of the House when they shifted their allegiance to the TRS. Jupalli Krishna Rao and Komatireddy Venkatareddy resigned from the Cabinet to declare their loyalty to the Telangana cause. While Mopidevi Venkataramana had to leave the Cabinet and go to jail as he was charge sheeted by the CBI in the case of disproportionate assets against YS Jaganmohan Reddy, Sabitha Indra Reddy and Dharmana Prasada Rao had to quit the Cabinet as they were named as accused. Three other ministers who received stinkers from the apex court chose to stay back till forced to quit. The top gun who made the lives of at least half a dozen ministers, besides an MP, some IAS officers and businessmen, miserable by being ruthlessly efficient and uncompromising to a fault, VV Lakshminarayana, Joint Director, CBI, has been transferred to Mumbai at the end of his deputation. Opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu, TDP chief, has been away for seven months walking across the State. He could not attend the first half of the Budget session and he is leaving for the US in a day or two without being able to take part in the second half. Kiran Kumar Reddy's government is there primarily because Naidu did not want to go for an early poll. It was within his reach to fell the government had he wanted. YSRCP leaders have been harping on this, saying that the Congress and the TDP had written the script together. The TDP leader remains unfazed. Every party has its right to choose its time for elections. This Assembly had voted on two no-confidence motions against Kiran Kumar Reddy. It has been most affected by disturbance not only on the floor but also outside. There have been maximum 'Chalo Assembly' calls by various parties and organizations. While in session, the Assembly had to deal with clashes between the Telangana protagonists in the campuses of Osmania University and Kakatiya University. There was echo in the campuses of Andhra University at Vizag and Srikrishna Devaraya University at Anantapur. This Assembly did not try to resolve the Telangana tangle. Instead, its leaders have been parroting the same theme that Delhi is seized of the matter and a right decision would be taken at the right time. The opposition parties have been blaming the Congress and the UPA-II for the logjam. This House did not have the heart to discuss the plight of the farmers thousands of whom committed suicide in the last four years of its existence. Whenever there is an agitation, the Assembly Building is fortified with armed police sent from other States by the Union government. We are witness today to a repeat performance by the government. The call given by TJAC which was supported by the TRS, BJP and the TDP has been gaining momentum and the government is resorting to suppression by filing binding over cases and taking activists into preventive custody. The disarray in and outside the House is reflective of the restive mood of the people who have been suffering for many years on account of the Centre's indecision. Tomorrow is another day of attrition between the protagonists and antagonists of Telangana, on the one hand, and between protestors and the law and order machinery, on the other. The Assembly has been a spectator to the unfolding scenario which is beyond its control. Important topics are not discussed in the House and what is discussed in the House has no bearing on the people. The disconnect has never been so profound.
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