JAMMU, Jan 24: The Upper House of the State Legislature today witnessed pandemonium as members from both sides, opposition (NC-Cong) and treasuries benches ( PDP-BJP), staged strong protest alleging discriminatory attitude of the Government against them and staged walk-out putting Government in embarrassing position and forcing Chairman to adjourn the House due to lack of quorum.
The unusual situation was witnessed after Chairman of the Legislative Council, Anayat Ali, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and even the Minister for Finance, Dr Haseeb Drabu failed to convince the members, not only from the opposition but also from the Treasury benches.
The agitating members alleged that despite commitment by the Finance Minister in his office chamber and even on the floor of the Upper House, his office failed to make amendment in the order wherein MLCs have been ignored from providing Rs one crore funds out of PDD sector for the constituency development and improving power infrastructure.
While all the opposition members staged walk-out immediately after the Chief Minister tried to convince them and concluded her remarks, most of the BJP-PDP (coalition) members including Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, Surinder Choudhary, Firdous Tak, Yash Pal Sharma, Sofi Yousuf, Vibodh Gupta and Charanjeet Singh Khalsa staged walk out from the House, after the Chief Minister left the Upper House. The Ministers – Naeem Akhtar, Ch Lal Singh, A R Veeri from Parliamentary Affairs and Agriculture Minister Ghulam Nabi Monga tried to convince them and pleaded to stay inside but most of them ignoring their pleas, left the House and walked out as mark of protest on Government response.
This put the Government in embarrassing situation. The Chairman who also failed to convince the members and restore order, adjourned the House for five minutes due to lack of quorum. The Ministers then moved out and brought the members of the treasury benches ( PDP-BJP) inside by convincing but those from Opposition preferred to stay away and boycotted the entire business in the House for the whole day.
The trouble started immediately after the House commenced today’s proceedings at 11 am. All the members stood up and asked the Chairman that he had given last opportunity to the Government to produce order after amending it today but the Government has failed to honour its commitment. The Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu stood up and said that he has produced the copy of the order and also provided to the Chairman.
Dr Drabu read the order and maintained that Rs one crore was not part of Constituency Development Fund but it was additional amount provide by the Government for improving power infrastructure in 87 constituencies of the State. He said the word public representative has been mentioned here and moreover, MLCs do not have the defined constituency. He however, assured to resolve the issue by issuing fresh instructions to the concerned officers.
This response of the Finance Minister added fuel to the fire and the MLCs irrespective of their party affiliations, trained guns at the Government. They said it was attempt to erode the sanctity of the House and degrade the Members of the Upper House. They said on earlier occasions Dr Drabu pacified them saying that it was an error and will be rectified and during Budget speech also promised to issue instruction to the concerned and amend it and now he was taking U-turn and misleading all the members of this House.
They asked that Government should tell them whether they were public representatives or not and if they are not given equal treatment, the Government should close down the Legislative Council. Sajjad Kichloo said it was the question of credibility of this House. The Government never take this House seriously. Jugal Kishore said that Chairman was the custodian of the rights of the members of this House and he should take serious note of it. The sanctity of the House is being eroded here.
Members Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri, Surinder Choudhary, Ramesh Arora, Firdous Tak, Ghulam Nabi Monga Showkat Ganai, Qaser Jamshed Lone, Naresh Gupta and Jugal Kishore placed strong arguments before the House seeking justice and equal treatment for the members of the Upper House.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh claimed that the money was for the constituencies and a committee was also framed for the same involving officials from PDD, DCs and others. However, he also tried to respond on the same lines as Dr Drabu did, but failed to convince the members. The business remained disrupted for about 30 minutes and it was total chaos and confusion in the House.
DyCM tried again to convince the members but failed. Chief Minister who was also present in the House kept watching this all for long. The Opposition members questioned her silence and said it is unfortunate that MLCs are crying for the last 30 minutes for justice and equal treatment and CM is maintaining silence.
While breaking her silence the Chief Minister said it seems that some confusion has been created by giving wrong assurance in the House. She said Government has kept certain funds at the disposal of Deputy Commissioners as grants for meeting out some exigent or additional requirements in their respective districts.
She said this untied amount would be used by the DCs for meeting some critical gaps in development expenditure by way of adding any facility or supplementing any existing service. The funds would be operated by the DCs on the advise of public representatives including MLAs/ MLCs and even the Panchayat members or common people. She said steps have been taken to empower people at the grass root level and ensure speedy completion of development works besides seeking active participation of people in developmental process in the State. After her remarks, Opposition walked out and later she also left. It was followed by walk out by the BJP-PDP members and adjournment of the House by the Chairman for five minutes.