Chief Secretary instructs Secretaries and HoDs to be present in Assembly till zero hour

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With the Budget session of the Legislative Assembly set to begin on Wednesday, Chief Secretary Rajeev Verma has issued a detailed circular instructing Secretaries and Heads of Departments to be present in the Officers’ Gallery of the Legislative Assembly till the completion of the Zero Hour so as to assist the Ministers in providing proper reply to subjects raised in the House.

The circular issued on Friday had further instructed heads of departments to be present in the Legislative Assembly when the questions related to their departments were taken up and to follow the debates.

Mr. Verma’s circular assumed importance as the recent Assembly sessions were witness to a huge uproar after members brought to the House, the absence of Secretaries and Heads of Departments in the Officers’ Gallery while key proceedings were on..

In the last Budget session, Speaker R. Selvam had given a ruling directing the Secretaries and Heads of Departments to be present in the Assembly to assist Ministers and to get acquainted with issues raised on the floor.

“Such circulars were common till a few years ago. The present one is a detailed directive to the Chief Secretary’s subordinates and assumes importance. The Speaker himself has held meetings with officers in the last few months to ensure better coordination between the elected representatives and senior officials,” an official told The Hindu.

The circular also warranted Secretaries/Special Secretaries to be present in the Assembly during Budget discussion pertaining to their concerned departments. “Efforts should also be made to anticipate issues, which are likely to come up for discussion and to keep the material ready in advance for the use of Ministers,” Mr. Verma said in his circular.

Besides the instruction to the senior officials to be present in the Assembly during the proceedings, the Chief Secretary has directed the officers to prepare replies to all Assembly Questions well in advance. The reply should be submitted to Assembly Secretariat at least 48 hours before the Question Hour on the date on which the particular query has been listed for reply.

“Heads of Departments should ensure that materials for answering replies are sent well in time to Secretariat Departments. It will be the personal responsibility of the Secretary of the Department concerned to ensure that all Assembly Questions are replied to in time and that the replies are prepared properly and correctly. Incidentally, it may be noted that the request for postponement of questions as far as possible should be avoided and only in cases of absolute necessity postponement of questions may be resorted to,” the circular said.

He also wanted the officers in the Departments concerned to apprise the Secretaries of important developments during the day. The Secretaries in-turn should also send a brief note on important issues to the Chief Secretary for information.

“Further, all Secretaries/ Heads of Departments and Officers, including officials of Public Sector Undertakings are strictly instructed to keep their cell phones in silent mode or switch off their cell phones while they are present in the Officers’ Gallery of the House,” the circular noted.

Approval for Budget

With two days left for the commencement of the session, the territorial government was awaiting clearance for the projected outlay of ₹11,000 crore for the current fiscal. The Planning Board of the Union Territory had in July fixed the draft of the annual plan at ₹11,000 crore. The amount had to be sanctioned by the Union Finance Ministry and Ministry of Home Affairs.

“We are awaiting the approval before the commencement of the session on Wednesday. The session will start with the customary address. The Business Advisory Committee will meet on the first day to decide on the schedule of the proceedings,” said a ruling party member.

Meanwhile, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagam has sought the intervention of Lt. Governor to get early approval for presenting the Budget from the Centre. Addressing a press conference on Saturday, party secretary, East, A. Anbalagan said the Budget presentation was delayed because the Centre delayed clearance during the time of the Congress government. “Now, it is a favourable political situation as the same alliance government is in power in the Union Territory and the Centre. In order to avoid a situation like the one that happened during the Congress period, the Lt. Governor should visit New Delhi and get approval for the Budget,” he said.

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