Modi govt continues to keep Parliament in dark, gives evasive answers to queries by Rajya Sabha MPs

In keeping with its policy of keeping Parliament in the dark, the Government’s replies to questions asked by MPs continue to be evasive, opaque and non-specific

Modi govt continues to keep Parliament in dark, gives evasive answers to queries by Rajya Sabha MPs

Ashlin Mathew

Replies to Parliament given by virtually all ministries are unsatisfactory, say opposition Members of Parliament. Neither presiding officers nor the Government appears unduly bothered by the trend, they complain.

Randomly selected replies given to questions raised by Members of the Rajya Sabha confirm the trend.

“The government has been avoiding giving data as they do not want anyone to look too closely at what is happening, say within Public Sector Undertakings. If they do not have the data, then who else will have it, wonders Rajya Sabha Member K.K. Ragesh of the CPI(M).

“They are simply redirecting the questions to different ministries as they do not want to share anything. There are guidelines to be followed for procurement by PSUs, especially by Railways. They must not have followed them and that is why they are giving vague answers,” says a frustrated Ragesh.

His question was plain. He had asked the ministry of Public Enterprises and Heavy Industries if procurements from PSUs had declined and the reasons for it.

But Prakash Javadekar, the minister, replied that central PSUs were under different ministries and hence his ministry had no data. Helpfully, he added that the ministry of public enterprises had not procured anything from PSUs in the last three years.

Had all toilets built under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) undergone a second round of verification, details of it and if a non-partisan entity had verified them, asked Congress Member Rajeev Gowda.

Rattan Lal Kataria, the minister of state in Jal Shakti ministry, replied that villagers themselves had declared villages Open Defecation Free (ODF) and second verification had been completed in 1,54,807 out of the 5,99,963 villages, which have declared themselves ODF. He is silent on the independent survey and if an independent organisation had done it.

“On the ground we see the programmes have failed but the Government is just not inclined to share details with Parliament,” says Gowda.

L Hanumanthaiah and P Bhattacharya of the Congress wanted to know about government’s progress to give water to all households as promised and they wanted to know how it would be done since water is a state subject.

Kattaria decided to give answers to questions that weren’t asked. He said “the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) has been restructured and subsumed into Jal Jeevan Mission.” He helpfully added that the central department provide financial and technical support to States.

MPs Vaiko and T Subbirami Reddy asked when the government would be appointing the Chief of Defence Staff, details of any study done to ensure creation of the CDS post does not lead to imbalances and the time by when CDS would be fully operational.

In its reply, the ministry said that there was an in-principle approval for the creation of CDS and added that military reforms were undertaken by the government as and when deemed necessary.

The Government, however, doesn’t seem to discriminate between questions put by opposition MPs and questions from the treasury benches.

Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, in the NDA till last session, asked if the government had any plan to plant 125 crore trees along National Highways during the next five years, details about the amount to be spent and if any agency had been shortlisted for planting trees, maintaining and geo-tagging them.

Nitin Gadkari’s ministry replied that tree planting was done as per relevant provisions of the manual published by Indian Roads Congress and geo-tagging was an integral part of the plantation and maintenance project.

BJP’s Lal Sinh Vadodia asked for details on infiltration of terrorists and what the government was doing to counter it.

The response from the Defence ministry was, “Government has adopted a robust counter infiltration strategy which has an appropriate mix of technology and human resource to check infiltration effectively. Innovative troop deployment, proactive use of surveillance and monitoring devices and the Anti Infiltration Obstacle System have enhanced the ability to detect and intercept terrorists attempting to infiltrate”.

Telugu Desam Party MP Thota Seetharama Lakshmi had asked whether funds had been allocated under National Talent Development Programme and what was the allocation for Andhra Pradesh.

The response from the Sports ministry under Kiren Rijiju was that there was no scheme called National Talent Development Programme in operation. However, under Talent Search & Development vertical of Khelo India Scheme, 2741 sporting talents were being given financial assistance. But no information was given on Andhra Pradesh.

Ram Nath Thakur of Janata Dal (United) had also asked a question on the Khelo India programme. He wanted to know what the aim was and if it had organised any training camp. While Khelo India’s website states that the programme would look at building sports talent through community coaching centres and state level Khelo India centres, the ministry replied that the programme aimed at strengthening the entire eco-system and that no training camps were held.

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Published: 20 Nov 2019, 9:58 AM