New Delhi: The non-functioning of parliament is proving very costly for the nation. With the expenditure for each day lost estimated at Rs.7.8 crore, the cumulative loss works out to Rs.132.6 crore for the 17 consecutive days parliament has not been able to transact any business so far.
Barring the first day of the ongoing winter session that began Nov 9, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have not functioned normally for a single day since then.
The two houses were adjourned Monday for the 17th consecutive day over the opposition`s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the allotment of second-generation (2G) telecom bandwidth to mobile companies in 2008, and the government equally determined not to set up such a panel. The government maintains a Public Accounts Committee of the parliament, headed by an opposition MP, is already looking into the issue.
Amidst the din, the government took up and passed the demands for grants (general) and demands for grants (railways) in the two houses last week.
According to official figures, the total budget of the two houses of parliament and the ministry of parliamentary affairs for 2010-11 is nearly Rs.535 crore.
In a year, the parliament meets thrice - the budget, monsoon and winter sessions. In the past five years (2005-2009), there have been an average of 68 sittings per year. That means, the expenditure for each day of a session is nearly Rs.7.8 crore.
Since the parliament`s establishment, including the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats, works round the year the expenditure per day has to be worked out according to the number of sittings as the entire staff, logistics and other expenses are incurred for the institution to conduct its legislative business.
The Parliament Library`s reference section adopts a different model of calculating per day expenditure. On the basis of 245 working days in a year, it calculates the expenditure of the two houses at Rs.2.12 crore per day, of which the Lok Sabha accounts for Rs.1.42 crore.
Both the Congress and the opposition are putting the blame on each other for the stalemate and the consequent loss of time and money.
CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia, blaming the government, said: "We are for normal functioning of parliament and for debate and discussion. If the government had agreed to the demand for JPC on the first day, parliament would have functioned properly. The stalemate is due to the government. Why is it not conceding the demand for a JPC. There have been four JPCs in the past 19 years. It (2G allocation) is such a big scam."
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said JPC was the only instrument to look into the multi-dimensional 2G scam.
"Somebody has to answer for the scandal. It can only be done through a JPC. If necessary, ministers have to be summoned. How do you pin the people responsible for giving the clearances," she said.
The government has ruled out a JPC.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was already looking into the 2G spectrum controversy.
He also trained his guns at the opposition lawmakers, saying that while Congress MPs had decided to forego daily sitting allowance of Rs.2,000, the opposition MPs were claiming the amount though "they were not ready to let the house function".
Bansal said before the start of the winter session last month, the opposition parties had given a list of over 20 issues but were not willing to talk on even a single issue now.