Farmers' suicides a National shame: Chatterjee

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Nagpur, Feb 18 (UNI) Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today described the large number of suicides by 'distressed' farmers as a 'national shame' and said efforts to resolve the problem should not be politicised.

Speaking during an interaction with a select group of intellectuals, including journalists here, Mr Chatterjee said farmers' suicides should be treated as a national issue. However, the debate on the issue had always been very partisan, he said.

''I have been saying this and also said it at the conference of party whips in Mumbai recently, that the debate should be with an attitude of cooperation and not of confrontation,'' he said.

Mr Chatterjee said he was keen that the authority to disqualify members of an elected House should be taken away from the presiding officers and given to the Election Commission (EC). At present, the presiding officers function as tribunals as far as disqualification of members are concerned, and this makes their decisions open to scrutiny by the courts, the Speaker said adding this put the office of the presiding officer in a very odd position.

Asserting that the media could play a vital role in preserving parliamentary democracy in the country, Mr Chatterjee said that unfortunately, newspapers nowadays dedicated very little space to the proceedings of Parliament.

''Page three has become the most important! It carries photographs and material that is not news, which all seem to be from another world. I don't know who benefits from it,'' he said.

Stressing the need to give serious and detailed coverage to Parliament, the Speaker quipped: ''The parliamentary model is more important than the human models.'' India had been lucky to have a vibrant democracy; most of her neighbours did not, he said.

Mr Chatterjee said there had been a question mark about the polls held in Pakistan today, he said this without naming any country.

The electronic media came in for criticism from Mr Chatterjee, who said news channels mix news with views. ''Fact should be stated as it is, and should not be mixed with opinion. Even newsreaders have started giving opinion and asking questions,'' he said.

Citing an instance, Mr Chatterjee said that the newsreader of one channel presented a story about a law being passed, and then asked if the law would be implemented. Such things create doubts in the mind of the viewers, he asserted.

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