Could someone explain the circumstances in which the state Health Minister Phungzathang Tonsing was conspicuously absent in the house when the issue of MBBS/BDS entrance examination fiasco was raised in a calling attention motion? What were the circumstances that compelled him to take ‘leave’ if at all prior permission for such leave was sought by the minister concerned from the Speaker, although it is still not clear whether he took ‘leave’ or simply stayed away. According to the rules of procedure, a member should seek the prior permission of the Speaker for his absence during the sitting of the Assembly irrespective of the number of days of absence. A clarification is still awaited on his supposed leave even though the answer to the said calling attention motion was already given by the Chief Minister. Yet, there was no official intimation of Minister Phungzathang’s leave in the house by the Speaker on July 3 sitting. Again, there is also the question of whether the leave has been granted. As the rules of procedure further stated, ‘If objection to leave being granted is taken, the Speaker shall request those members who are in favour of leave being granted to rise in their places and if not less than ten members rise, the Speaker shall intimate that leave is granted.’ As of July 4 there has been no vote in the house, on whether the ‘leave’ pertaining to Minister Phungzathang could be granted or not. As regards calling attention motions, the notice has to be addressed to the Secretary of the Assembly with copies to be endorsed separately to the Speaker and the Minister concerned. From this rule, one can safely assume that the Health Minister Phungzathang Tonsing had knowledge of the calling attention motion on the recent fiasco of MBBS/BDS entrance examination result prior to the July 3 sitting of the Assembly. Besides newspaper reports on his reluctance to attend the assembly on July 3 and the reasons for his ‘leave’ nothing is official so far. Given the gravity of the issue on notice and the demand by various student bodies and civil society groups for an independent inquiry into the MBBS entrance fiasco, nothing should be left to doubt. Whether a prior permission for leave was sought by the Health Minister from the Speaker or whether the ‘leave’ was granted or not or was the reasons cited for seeking leave compelling enough to grant a leave in the face of a motion calling the minister’s attention, has to be clarified. The sanctity of the house has to be safeguarded and no room for public criticism for the proceedings of the dignified house should be left open. If the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh could admit the mistake, leave aside the question of human error or manipulation, why should it be difficult for the Health Minister do the same. The Chief Minister Ibobi Singh has refused to institute an inquiry into the fiasco as against the demand put up by the two opposition MLAs and the matter ended then and there in the house. Tragedy is, no other hand in support of the two MLAs’ demand was seen in the opposition bench. Likewise, there was none to debate on the general discussion except for Dr Ibohalbi the Trinamool MLA and leader. This is indeed sad. It seems, most of the MLAs are still caught in the procedural maze of the parliamentary norms and practices. Gone are the days, when there were 10-15 starred questions in a single sitting and there were extended sessions till late at night. But, we must also remember that there is a people outside the house anxiously waiting for results of serious deliberations and they should not be left disappointed. Having said this, we call upon the Speaker to clear the doubts lurking in the minds of the people in the interests of the sanctity of the house.
Photography Credit and Copyright: Rashingam Ngoruh Siroi hills/ Shirui hills ranges in the Ukhrul District of Manipur, India, at an elevation of 1730m–2590m above sea level. Picture speaks itself the beauty of the Siroy Hill
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