India has 'no solution' to parliament deadlock: minister

Thursday November 25, 2010
By Sam Devraj  ( Assistant Editor )
Praising Chinese cricket: Javed Miandad

Praising Chinese cricket: Javed Miandad

INDIA’S veteran finance minister admitted today that the government did not know how to resolve a stand-off with the opposition over a telecom scandal that has paralysed the national parliament.

The lower and upper houses of the national assembly were adjourned for a 10th day as the opposition stormed the floor of both houses, shouting slogans and refusing to let anyone speak.

The protesters, led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are calling for a cross-party probe into telecom licences being sold in 2007-08 at a fraction of their value, causing a loss of up to $40bn (£25.37bn).

The government has refused to agree to a probe, stressing that the police and state anti-corruption bodies are both looking into the tainted sales, which could be India’s biggest ever corruption case.

“We have not been able to find a solution. I don’t know how to resolve this impasse,” finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters.

Mukherjee has chaired several fruitless all-party meetings to try to persuade the BJP to drop their demands, but the opposition is determined to press its case and has called for Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to step down.

India’s national assembly has grown increasingly raucous in the past decade, with concern growing that legislation does not receive proper scrutiny amid posturing, shouting and even minor scuffles among lawmakers.

Data collected by PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based think-tank, showed that of the scheduled 170 working hours of the last session of parliament, 100 hours were lost to adjournments, protests and walkouts.

Because so much time is wasted, the final days - or sometimes hours - of any session are often spent voting through bills without any genuine debate.

The current winter sessions are set to end on December 13.

The government had intended to pass a new law on the prevention of torture, which needs approval in the upper house, while a key piece of legislation on forced land acquisition for infrastructure projects was also mooted.

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