Wednesday, September 01, 2010

National Educational Tribunals Bill deferred

In a classic case of hit wicket, Congress MP Keshava Rao's scathing criticism of his own government's National Educational Tribunals Bill and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday forced the government to defer the bill. The bill was deferred despite the Opposition promising to pass it in the morning. In fact, BJP and other Opposition parties, except Left, had wholeheartedly supported and passed the bill in Lok Sabha. But in Rajya Sabha, the BJP said the bill was brought in a hurry. Strangely, when the BJP and other Opposition parties were demanding deferment, not a single Congress MP came to Sibal's defence when he rose to speak after the debate to allay apprehensions of members. Rao's explanation that he was not opposed to the bill was too late as the House forced Sibal to seek passage in the winter session. An upset Sibal later said, "There will be another day".

When the discussion started on the bill, there were barely 50 members in the House and it looked set to be passed. The first speaker, Bal Apte (BJP), criticised the bill stating that it was not necessary at this stage and a holistic approach was needed. He even called it useless and asked Sibal to withdraw the half-baked bill. While Sibal would have been prepared for criticism by Apte, the next speaker completely changed the scene in the House. It was an angry Keshava Rao taking on the HRD ministry and Sibal for not accepting even a single recommendation of the Standing Committee of Parliament. Talking about Sibal, he said, "His thoughts run faster than the deeds of his ministry".

Amid cheering from Oppositing benches, Rao called Standing Committees as mini-Parliament and said if the report of such a panel was rejected and the House not even told, it was unacceptable. Standing Committee did talk about 20 to 22 subjects, which you said you do not agree, Rao said, adding that the Committee was not to indulge in fashion dialogue or talks for talks sake. Let every minister sitting in the House first start respecting the Standing Committee. "This kind of hasty legislation for a subject like education does not augur well", he said.

Immediately, BJP, BSP and Left members were seen walking to each others seat and exchanging notes. When the House was adjourned for lunch, Minister of State for HRD D. Purandeshwari could be heard telling Rao that the issues he raised were not related to tribunals. Sibal joined her later and told Rao, "Now Opposition members are saying even your own party is critical of the bill and are demanding deferrment". Post-lunch, most speakers demanded deferment of the bill on the grounds that it was drafted hurriedly without much consultation.

Source: The Times of India, September 1, 2010

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