The drawbacks of having an Assembly session for three days and pushing through huge amounts of Bills are surfacing. Not only did the session on two days extend beyond midnight, it was almost sunrise when many of the MLAs would have reached home. But there is more, in three days the Goa Legislative Assembly transacted record amounts of business, passing the demands for grants, the Budget and 11 government bills were passed on the last day. The Goa Appropriation Bill and the other Bills went through without any discussion as opposition members staged a walk out on Friday evening, at the time when the most important of the Bills were to be taken up for discussion allowing the government to get them pass without discussion.
While a majority of the Bills were amendments, there were at least two Bills that should have been thoroughly debated in the Assembly, if not referred to select committees for scrutiny. These are the Goa Mineral Development Corporation Bill and the Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill, 2021. While the former proposes the establishment of a government corporation that will take up mining operations, the latter proposes to provide for a mechanism to give ownership right to self-occupied dwellers of a small housing unit. Under the provisions of the Bill, a ‘bhumiputra’ is defined as a person who has been residing in Goa for at least 30 years. Such persons, shall not be evicted from the dwelling unit occupied by them and the dwelling unit shall not be demolished during pendency of any proceedings under the Act.
With the opposition having walked out of the House, the Bills were passed without any discussion, but Bills as important as that of the Mining Corporation and Bhumiputra Adhikarini should not have been rushed through without a full debate. The opposition may today claim, and rightly so, that the bills were given to them on Thursday night, the night when the session ended at 4 am (Friday) and there was no time to study the Bills and make suggestions. The opposition does have a responsibility to ensure that the government is not allowed to have its way without questions being raised. On Friday last week, the opposition failed to fulfil the role it has been elected to play. The walkout did not serve any particular purpose.
A practical way to circumvent the lack of time would have been to nominate one member of the opposition to study the Bill and have that one MLA cornering the government on the Floor of the House. The Legislative Assembly is not the place to play to the galleries but to take up the issues of the people. Hence, it does not require all the opposition MLAs to be speaking on the same subject, it needs all the opposition members voting in unison on issues. All it calls for is some smart working on the part of the opposition. In the current case it has allowed the government to have the upper hand.
That doesn’t leave the government off the hook, as it is obvious that it didn’t want a discussion on the Bills and more than the Mining Corporation bill, it would be the Bill that intends to give ownership rights to persons of dwelling houses. As pointed out by senior-most MLA Pratapsingh Rane, the Assembly is the place for discussions and consultations and the government cannot steamroll because it has brute majority. This the government has to accept, for once a trend has been set of having Bills passed without discussion it will very quickly be followed by future governments. The people’s voice is stifled, and this Herald had already raised when the Assembly session had been curtailed to three days.