NEW DELHI: On November 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while chairing the first meeting of his expanded cabinet, had asked his ministerial colleagues to do their home work for the upcoming Winter Session of the Parliament. Now, three weeks into the current session, not only were many members, including those from the ruling BJP, were dissatisfied with the replies given by various ministers in the House, but some ministers were even forced to correct their replies.
During the current session, there have been five instances where ministers corrected their previous replies given in both the Houses, while some more may be in the pipeline. During the last Monsoon Session (July-August), ministers gave statements correcting replies for six different questions. Ironically, in some cases, despite corrections being made on the floor of the House, the corrections haven’t been made in the Parliament websites.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday made a statement in the Rajya Sabha correcting the reply to a question posed on August 11. One of the components of the question asked by Samajwadi Party member Arvind Kumar Singh related to suspension of teaching and non-teaching staff in central universities. The anomaly in data was detected pertaining to four central universities. The earlier data said there were 15 cases of suspension and termination of teaching and non-teaching staff in four central universities. In the corrected version, the total number of cases in these four universities jumped to 31.
In her defence before the House, Irani said there were 40 central universities under her ministry, which meant that information sought was “voluminous” which resulted in “inadvertent error.”
The case is even more interesting for the newly appointed Minister of State for Urban Development, Babul Supriyo. Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia on November 26 had sought to know about the measures taken to improve mobility in the national capital which have been “effective” so far. In the original reply, the minister said “a committee has been formed to look into all aspects on ‘How to Decongest Delhi’. The committee will submit its report in 30 days. The committee has already submitted its report.”
However, the error in the question asked was revealed when the minister corrected the reply on December 3. It turned out that typographical error had occurred even in the question. The corrected question read: measures taken to improve mobility in Delhi which have proved to be “ineffective” so far. The word “effective” was replaced by “ineffective”. The corrected reply also omitted the line that report had been submitted.
Similarly, Minister for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra corrected a reply given on August 13 on a question on Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana asked by Congress member B V Naik. Mishra in his original reply had said no funds have been allotted under the scheme in last three years. However, the lengthy changes running into several pages also corrected the figures on funds sanctioned. The new figures provided were `4.20 crore sanctioned in 2011-12; `3 crore in 2012-13; `2.83 crore in 2013-14.
Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had corrected his reply on amendments in laws brought by states in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The original reply to the question asked by eight MPs had an annexure giving details of proposals submitted by only Rajasthan government. The corrected version gave details of all states which included proposals and amendments in their labour laws.
During the last Monsoon Session, the ministers who corrected their replies in Rajya Sabha included Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (correction on FAQs on CSR activities undertaken by various companies), Home Minister Rajnath Singh (cities put under UAV surveillance), then Tourism and Culture Minister Sripad Naik (revenue generation by monuments). In Lok Sabha, then Defence Minister Jaitley (corrected reply on question related to defence contracts), then Health Minister Harsh Vardhan (on cases of measles), Naik (loss to tourism sector) made corrections. However, during that session, some of the corrections pertained to questions and replies given during the earlier sessions when UPA government was in power.
Parliament sources said in-correction occur at the ministry level due to oversight or load of work as the amount of questions handled and data generated is very high. However, whenever an anomaly in the reply is detected, the minister requests the Chairman in case of Rajya Sabha and Speaker in case of Lok Sabha to make the correction and submits the corrected version. The minister then has to make the correction when the House is in session. Taking serious note of wrong replies two years ago, Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari had referred the matter to privileges committee to fix the responsibility.