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Bengal Council proposal goes to committee

Special Correspondent

15-member panel to be constituted today

Kolkata: The proposal mooted by the State Government to revive the West Bengal Legislative Council after 42 years was moved in the Assembly on Tuesday but was later referred to a House committee for further discussions following reservations expressed by the Opposition. The 15-member Committee will be constituted on Wednesday.

Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee moved a resolution under Article 169 of the Constitution for creation of a Legislative Council for the State of West Bengal.

Participating in the two-hour debate, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that although she did not agree with the points being raised by the Opposition, she would like the resolution to be referred to a select committee for further discussions.

When Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra pointed out that since this was not a Bill it could not go to a select committee, she shot back: “Rules are not my jurisdiction—that will be looked after by the Speaker.”

Report in six weeks

Following the Chief Minister's “suggestion”, Mr Chatterjee moved the resolution on formation of the committee, saying that the government would like the committee to submit its report in six weeks.

Speaker Biman Banerjee asked Mr Chatterjee and Mr Mishra to meet in his chamber on Wednesday to finalise the committee's composition.

During her speech, Ms Banerjee said to a round of applause from her party legislators that the Council was proposed to be formed “to give voice to those people who are never given a hearing and to address their areas of concern. Even a rickshaw-puller, a farm labour may become a member of this Council as there was no other way to draw this section of the people into the law-making process”.

This was a pre-poll commitment made by the party, she said, adding that people from all walks of life, especially women and the minorities, would be on this Council.

She refuted a point raised by Mr Mishra that a bicameral Legislature may delay law-making saying that the mounds of files at the State Secretariat did not indicate very speedy decision-making by the previous government either. “Why blame a Legislative Council for this,” she quizzed.

In his speech, Mr Mishra said although a bicameral Legislature is good at the national level there was no need for it at the State level. “It will only add to costs and delay law-making,” he said.

He also pointed at some Congress members present in the House to remind them that in 1969 they too had voted in favour of the dissolution of the Legislative Council.

The budget session which had started on June 14 was adjourned sine die on Tuesday.

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