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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Parliament impasse costs India
Opposition politicians
The opposition is piling on the pressure
India's latest political crisis over the violence in Gujarat state is holding up crucial economic reforms.

Parliament was stalled for the fourth straight day as opposition MPs pressed for a discussion and vote on Gujarat.


With the opposition baying for blood, when will [parliament] ever reconvene to take up important economic legislation

US businessman John Karp

Nearly 800 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed over the past month in religious riots in the state, which is governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The opposition wants the BJP, which also heads the federal government, to replace its leader in Gujarat for failing to curb the violence.

Heavy cost

The continuing stalemate in parliament comes at a heavy price, say civil rights groups.

Indian slum
Indians are paying the price

HD Shourie, a civil rights activist, says taxpayers are losing $350 for every minute of parliamentary time lost.

"These calculations are made on the basis of the government's budget provisions for running parliament," the AFP news agency quoted Mr Shourie as saying.

Over the past few years, interruptions in parliament have become the norm with both the ruling party and opposition MPs raising slogans and creating a stir.

Last year, the opposition stalled parliament for a week over an arms scandal, nearly leading to an economic crisis.

Reforms stalled

Several key economic bills are waiting to be passed in the current parliamentary session including the annual federal and railway budgets.

Bills pending
Finance Bill (Annual budget)
Foreign Trade Bill
Industrial Disputes Bill
Patents Bill
Consumer Protection Bill
Other bills which are held up include those which seek to reform India's archaic labour laws and power sector.

"With the opposition baying for blood, when will [parliament] ever reconvene to take up important economic legislation," said John Karp of the US-based Wigan Infotech.

Analysts say the pressure on the government means that tough economic decisions would be put on the backburner.

And recent electoral reverses have also dimmed the government's enthusiasm for such legislation.

"At a time when the Indian people are disenchanted with the government, the finance minister is hardly in a position to upset people further and push through difficult reforms pertaining to the labour and power sector," said Ravi Wig, of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

At a party conclave last week, BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy asked the government to rethink its economic policy, in the wake of successive poll defeats.

See also:

16 Apr 02 | South Asia
India's opposition turns up the heat
16 Apr 02 | South Asia
Gujarat Muslim women 'rape victims'
12 Apr 02 | South Asia
BJP stands by Gujarat chief
24 Mar 02 | South Asia
Rights panel censures Gujarat
15 Mar 02 | South Asia
India's secularism under threat?
20 Mar 01 | South Asia
India opposition keeps up pressure
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