The coalition government has finally decided to convene the autumn session of the state legislative assembly and the council. For 10 days starting Oct 1, the houses would be functional but the actual business would be strictly for seven days. Reports which are already out suggest that five days have been reserved for government business while two days have been scheduled for private members’ bills and resolutions.
The session has to be convened once in half a year and the schedule is not in conflict with that. But it obviously seems too small a duration for the elected representatives of the state to discuss the crucial issues their electorate is confronted with. At one point of time, holding short duration sessions in Srinagar was being linked to the massive traffic crisis for security reasons when the sessions were being held in the old assembly complex. Now, when a new legislative complex is operational in a much secure, secluded and proper place, there is no excuse for not discussing and debating the issues of vital public importance.
Ideally, the lawmakers in J&K should have a schedule of having a short duration session almost every month so that immediate issues cropping up on day to day basis are raised and discussed so that the executive of the state gets some kind of input from the ground level. But the lawmakers are supposed to wait for almost half a year to raise issues, seek responses or make recommendations to the government. Sometimes, the treasury benches simply laugh at the issues that lawmakers raise because they had happened many months back.
At times, even lawmakers fail to prioritise issues that they need to talk about. Apart from the disproportionate deployment of resources across regions and districts, creation of new utilities, rampant corruption and the more recent a clear obstruction in implementing the right to information act, there are plenty of issues that should have been discussed by the lawmakers. But somehow, it does not happen and the non availability of institutions either buries the issues itself or these get converted into a crisis that sometimes impacts the overall well being of a society. Absence of an alternative opinion on issues leads the administration and the political executive of the state to create way-outs that might be in the interest of the administration but may not be necessarily in the interest of the public. It also leaves no rooms for public participation in the overall governance. Eventually, it creates a gulf, a space that is always open to be filled by the most vocal.
Speaker of the state legislative assembly has indicated that if one goes by the reports that have already appeared in the media, he would be more than willing to extend the duration of the session if an issue of utmost public importance crops up. He would be meeting the representatives of all the political parties before the session starts. The parties must take a stand that the lawmakers should get enough time to discuss every single issue of development, ecology, heritage, civil liberties and obviously the hardcore politics to debate. If the lawmakers believe this house is vital for the well being of the state, then they must use it. Otherwise institutional disuse triggers decay and triggers larger mess.