Congress and AAP legislators combined their strength in the House to hit out at officials posted at Punjab Bhawan in New Delhi for not according “due respect” to MLAs and not allotting them rooms in the VIP Block ‘A’ whereas bureaucrats, who ranked lower in protocol, were given preference.
MLAs of both parties rose in unison against the ‘harsh treatment’ they received from the Punjab Bhawan officials and pointed out that even though the Chief secretary of the state-ranked lower than a MLA, he had a permanent room reserved for him at the Punjab Bhawan while MLAs were often turned back or given a room in the ordinary ‘B’ block.
The issue was first raised by AAP MLA Sarvjit Kaur Manuke in the Zero Hour who said that the treatment meted out to MLAs at Punjab Bhawan was a “very serious matter” and that some action needed to be taken immediately.
Congress MLA Parminder Singh Pinky supported Manuke and blamed the bureaucracy. “Is an MLA’s status above the Chief Secretary’s status or not. A clerk told an MLA recently that he could not be given a room because the meeting that he had come for has been cancelled. Who gave him authority to say this,” he asked.
Congress MLA from Qadian, Fateh Jung Bajwa, said that fellow MLA Nirmal Singh was the one turned away by a clerk. “In the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting we had told the Chief Minister that action should be taken against officials. You (Speaker) are custodian of the House. Take action,” he said.
Shutrana MLA Nirmal Singh said that the concerned official did not even take his phone calls when he was in Delhi. “No official picked up my phone. I kept calling one person and I have records that I called him 17 times before he took my call. He said that your meeting has been cancelled why have you come here. I want to move a privilege motion against him,” he said.
Congress and AAP MLAs stood up from their seats at this point and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra intervened and gave assurance to the House. “I assure the House. This is a serious issue. The status of members is above that of Chief Secretary,” he said.
Speaker Rana KP Singh, addressing the House, said that the issue had its genesis in a letter dating back to 2007 which said that rooms will be allotted to MLAs in ‘A’ Block in Punjab Bhawan if they are vacant and the MLAs had been listed at the bottom of the priority list.
“It cannot happen that a Principal Secretary is listed first and MLAs last. It cannot happen. I assure the House. I have already held two meetings on this subject. Tomorrow, I will call the Chief Secretary and get this letter cancelled and ensure primacy to MLAs,” he said.
The agitated legislators still kept shouting and gesticulating towards the Speaker which led to Brahm Mohindra making another statement. “This is my sixth term as an MLA. I have become a minister in my sixth term only. What my friends are feeling, I have also felt in my past five terms. I have also been a victim. I will get the government to help in this issue,” he assured.