New Delhi: Following backlash from opposition leaders over the decision to scrap Question Hour from the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, starting 14 September, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said Wednesday evening that he has requested the Lok Sabha Speaker to allow unstarred questions by members.
Unstarred questions are those where a minister gives a written reply to questions asked by MPs, whereas starred questions get verbal responses in the House.
All questions for Question Hour — the first hour of business every day when Parliament is in session — have to be tabled 15 days before the session, but Joshi told news agency ANI that the government had requested Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Vice-President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu to allow MPs to table their unstarred questions.
Joshi also said he has requested the heads of the two Houses to keep the duration of Zero Hour to 30 minutes. Unlike Question Hour, members can raise any current issue related to any ministry for discussion during the Zero Hour. But the minister concerned is not bound to respond.
“They will take the final decision. The government is ready to have a discussion on every issue,” Joshi said.
Criticism of earlier decision
This is a climbdown of sorts as the government had earlier said that because of the unprecedented situation due to the Covid pandemic, Question Hour will not be scheduled during the monsoon session.
The decision had invited stringent criticism from opposition parties like the Congress and the Trinamool Congress.
Joshi said he and his colleagues had spoken to every party regarding the scrapping of Question Hour and Zero Hour, and everyone except Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien had agreed to scrap the former.
ThePrint reached O’Brien for comment via text messages, but he did not respond. But earlier in the day, in a virtual press conference, he had said the government is deliberately scrapping Question Hour as it wants to avoid giving answers on pressing issues like the high unemployment rate and the state of the economy, among others.