MPs shout, bang desk at JS for role
Parliament witnessed a brief commotion yesterday as lawmakers shouted and thumped desks, demanding restoration of their authority to oversee development activities in their constituencies.
Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzak struggled to speak amid the rising clamour of voices during the question-answer session.
As things threatened to go out of control, the speaker intervened and brought the House back to order.
The situation heated up when the minister was replying to a question if the government will cancel the caretaker government's circular scrapping the lawmakers' authority to supervise implementation of the projects under Test Relief and Food for Work programmes.
He said the issue of MPs' involvement in development work has been open to debate. There have been demands that their role be confined to making laws, and the local government bodies be in charge of the development activities.
His mention of debate had the legislators from the Awami League-led ruling alliance riled up and yelling at the top of their voice.
Taking the floor, some of them demanded that the government restore their influence over development projects.
They also asked to be involved in distribution of Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) and Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) cards among their constituents. The others welcomed the demands by thumping desks.
At one stage, Speaker Abdul Hamid urged the members to keep calm. “First, let him answer and then give your reactions.”
The food minister sought to skirt around a direct answer. He said the lawmakers cannot be kept from supervising the local development activities. The MPs all over the world play role in local development work.
The lawmakers still expressed displeasure with the minister's statement. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was present at that time.
AL's Atiur Rahman Atiq said deputy commissioners and upazila executive officers do not consult them on food grains and other development allocations for their constituencies. He asked if the government will reverse the policy.
Another lawmaker, Moazzem Hossain Ratan, said the local government representatives distribute the food grains, keeping the lawmakers in the dark. He enquired if the practice would be stopped immediately.
Treasury bench greeted the questions by huge desk-thumping.
The minister said the present policy does not allow any room to engage lawmakers in development allocations.
“However, the MPs are informed through letters about the amount of allocations,” he added.
In a scripted answer to a query from Jatiya Party lawmaker Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, he said the government is reviewing the policy on development activities.
As the lawmakers have been elected on pledges of development in their areas, the government is trying to work out ways to ensure they have a say in the local development projects, observed Razzak.
Earlier, on February 15, the ruling alliance members sought block allocations for development work in their localities. They also called on the government to scrap the upazila parishad ordinance that stripped them of the authority over local government bodies.
As Sarah Begum Kabari spoke of alleged irregularities in the 'employment for 100 days' project under the caretaker government, Speaker Abdul Hamid said the allegations should be probed.
He said the unemployed were given work for only seven to eight days and they remained jobless for the remaining days.
The food minister assured the speaker that his ministry will look into the matter.