Gujarat Assembly tales: Question hour or ‘fun time’ for govt, MLAs?
The books containing starred questions asked during the recently concluded assembly session make one wonder whether the state government and the MLAs of the ruling BJP really care about the questions asked in the House. A study of the books done by a non-governmental organisation (Gujarat Social Watch) has revealed that not only are they full of errors but the government gave different answers to the same question when asked by different MLAs.
It is significant that a majority of the starred questions asked during the just-concluded assembly session were from MLAs of the ruling BJP. As DNA had reported earlier, the Saffron Party had got the signature of its MLAs on blank forms meant for starred questions. But none of the MLAs cared to check what questions were asked in their name and what answers were received.
When DNA asked some BJP and Congress MLAs about the different answers given in reply to their 'questions', they looked surprised.
To given an example, the book of starred questions tabled in the house on February 27 shows that two MLAs asked the same question but their queries were listed at different places in the same book.
Mahendrasinh Sarvaiya and Kalubhai Virani, BJP MLAs from Palitana and Savarkundala, respectively, had wanted to know how many unemployed people were registered with Bhavnagar district employment office in 2011, and how many of them had found jobs. However, Sarvaiya's question was listed 26th and on page number 11 of the questions book while Virani's question was listed as 215th and on page number 87!
The answer to Sarvaiya's question gave the number of registered unemployed people as 13,429 and the number of people who had found jobs as 1980. But the answer given for Virani said the number of registered unemployed people was 13,429 while 7668 had been able to get jobs.
When the discrepancy in the answers to the same question was pointed out to the two MLAs, they admitted that they were not aware of it.
"I didn't know about it. But I will write to the officers concerned and they will correct the 'printing mistake' and send us the right answer," said Sarvaiya.
Virani was more revealing about his attitude to starred questions. He said he hadn't read the answer given for his question. "If the question was not discussed in the house, I wouldn't know its answer. Now that you have indicated this error, I will ask for a clarification from the departments concerned," he said.
Similarly, two MLAs from Junagadh district - BJP MLA from Somnath, Rajshee Jotwa; and Congress MLA from Kodinar Dhirsinh Barad - asked the same starred question which was listed in the book tabled in the house on March 5. But Jotwa's question was 17th in the book while Barad's query was at 171st place. More significantly, the answers given for the same question were different.
When this was brought to the notice of the two legislators, Jotwa said he would write to the officers concerned for the correct information. Barad, however, alleged that questions asked by the ruling party MLAs were admitted while those of the Opposition ignored.
"We could not focus on the questions because of the suspension of Congress legislators from the House. The government has been giving wrong information in the assembly. It allowed BJP MLAs to ask the same question repeatedly but did not admit the questions of Opposition MLAs as these questions would have exposed the government," Barad said.