Om Birla: ‘Zero Hour’ Lok Sabha Speaker
By Our Special Correspondent
New Delhi, June 15: In another four days, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will complete three years in office while half of his tenure has been spent during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Birla was a surprise pick of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the post of the Lok Sabha Speaker in 2019 after the party won a massive mandate winning over 300 seats, with first timers making to the lower House in a large number.
Birla in his previous term had hardly been seen speaking in the House in line with the general trend with most of the members waiting for their turn to raise issues of importance of their Parliamentary constituencies.
Birla to his credit has given voice to many such MPs in the Lok Sabha, making them speak and raise their issues, by letting the House function till late evening and sometimes even till midnight.
His aides claimed that Birla called for a list of the MPs who had hardly been speaking in the House and individually urged upon them to take part in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha.
The Zero Hour under which the MPs get one minute to raise issues of importance of their Parliamentary constituencies has become the norm in the last three years.
The Lok Sabha secretariat also claims that the number of questions being taken up during the Question Hour has significantly gone up during the tenure of Birla.
It’s also being claimed that there’s increased response of the government to the issues raised by the MPs during the Zero Hour.
It may be known that the general schedule of the Lok Sabha begins with the Question Hour for one hour, which is a practice to fix the parliamentary accountability of the executive, which is followed by the government business and the Zero Hour for one hour. But the Speaker has the discretion to change the schedule, and the Zero Hour has been taken up even in late hours in the House.
While the MPs are reportedly happy with Birla, the Opposition members on occasions have complained in the House of not being allowed to raise issues of immediate urgency.
The journalists have much to complain since in the name of the Covid-19 restrictions access to the press gallery of the Lok Sabha is being extended only to the Delhi-based newspapers, with a few exceptions, while there being no transparency, besides undue delay in issuance of the Parliamentary passes to the members of the media.
Besides, Birla has also been on a digital overdrive, which has resulted in lack of hard copies of the questions, Budget papers, legislative bills, which the scribes have complained in-person to him for causing inconveniences.