Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Conspiracy of the elected


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The Speaker of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly has on several occasions defended the short sessions because of poor attendance. This last session of the five year assembly term was already a truncated one. Yet on the last but one day the Speaker had to adjourn the House twice for want of a quorum. How serious are the legislators about their responsibility? Not much from the looks of it. It appears as if there’s an unspoken conspiracy to abort any discussion by private members. An important debate on the Mineral Policy had to be shelved for want of a quorum. And the important Lokayukta Bill which NGOs had demanded should have the necessary teeth has turned out to be a damp squib.

Firstly, it was perhaps not appropriate to push through an important legislation at gun point. This state has three million people. In a democracy it would have been more correct to have adequate public consultations to see if more ideas could be incorporated. After all, wisdom does not reside only with a group of urban based NGOs. Besides, NGOs are not the last word on every issue. They are not elected representatives and like all citizens they should learn to respect the rules of legislative decorum. In this case the Government saw itself being held to ransom and did a knee-jerk job – the result of which is a Lokayukta Bill that’s neither here nor there. In short it is as ineffective or worse than the one which is already passed ten years ago. The present Bill is actually an insult to the intelligence of the people of Meghalaya.

On the other hand it is hard to imagine that a Bill as important as the Lokayukta should have been passed without due diligence and without following legislative procedures such as a thorough debate in the Assembly by members across the political spectrum, or, for the Bill to be sent to a Select Committee for further discussion before it is pushed through in the Assembly. None of this happened. The Bill which was hurriedly cobbled up makes a mockery of public aspirations for greater transparency and accountability. And the manner it was rushed through is nothing short of treacherous. The proponents of the ‘strong’ Lokayukta have burnt the Government version. It looks like they will be on the warpath.

In a sense this is a good precedence as the Lokayukta might become the election talking point. It could be the hinge on which would rest the fate of the next batch of 60 legislators. That is if the NGOs are able to spread their wings throughout the 60 assembly constituencies. Perhaps this will change the way people vote. As of now the Government will have to explain why it has made a joke of an important piece of legislation.


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