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NEW DELHI: Amid criticism by several opposition leaders for dropping the Question Hour from the upcoming Parliament session, the government on Wednesday said it is not running away from any debate and that all opposition parties were told beforehand about the move with most of them agreeing to it.
The government is ready for unstarred questions and it has requested presiding officers of both the Houses to facilitate the same, parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told PTI.
Unstarred questions are those to which written answers are given by ministers, while ‘starred questions’ are those to which answers are desired to be given orally on the floor of the House during the Question Hour.
“We are not running away from any debate and is ready to discuss any issue or topic which will be decided in the Business Advisory Committee,” Joshi said.
Underlining that the monsoon session is being held in unprecedented circumstances in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Joshi said officers from ministries would have to come to Parliament if the Question Hour is held and that can make the place crowded.
Therefore, for the safety of members, there will be no Question Hour during the monsoon session, the minister said.
He also said the government had approached all opposition parties before the notification was issued for the session and most of them were in agreement for not holding the Question Hour during the session.
There will be a Zero Hour of at least 30 minutes, he said.
Several opposition leaders, including from the Congress, Trinamool Congress and CPI, have criticised the decision of not having the Question Hour. The leaders accused the government of trying to “murder the democracy” in the name of the Covid-19 pandemic and of reducing “Parliament to a notice board”.
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said that the proposal to exclude Question Hour during this session is arbitrary and undemocratic as it is the right of the members to ask questions to the government on key issues.
“Parliament sessions are not only meant for government business but also scrutiny and accountability of the government.
“Delayed monsoon session of Parliament is one of special significance after the lockdown and phased unlocking. The proposal to exclude Question Hour is arbitrary, shocking and undemocratic. It is members’ privilege and the very life of a session,” said Sharma.
Criticising the decision, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said questioning the government is the “oxygen” of parliamentary democracy and alleged that the Modi dispensation seeks to reduce Parliament to a “notice board”.
The Trinamool Congress alleged that the government took the decision to deny opposition members an opportunity to ask questions on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
“MPs required to submit questions for Question Hour in Parliament 15 days in advance. Session starts September 14. So Question Hour cancelled? Opposition MPs lose right to question government. A first since 1950? Parliament overall working hours remain same so why cancel Question Hour? Pandemic excuse to murder democracy,” tweeted TMC MP Derek O’Brien.
CPI MP Binoy Viswam wrote a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Nadu, saying that suspension of Question Hour and Private Members’ business is “unjust” and they must be reinstated immediately.
Viswam said suspending these parliamentary procedures raise “serious questions” on the “intent” of the government at a time crucial developments continue to take place across the country.

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