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India business, democracy flounder after monsoon washout

NEW DELHI -- A total impasse in India's parliament is not only undermining the world's biggest democracy but also deepening its economic woes as long-awaited reforms fall by the wayside.

A now familiar chorus of recriminations echoed around the grandiose circular chamber on Friday as the second of the three annual sessions ended in paralysis.

Faced with MPs from the main opposition BJP party shouting and waving papers, the parliamentary speaker called an end to proceedings shortly after midday.

The BJP has been demanding the resignation of beleaguered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over a scandal involving the awarding of coal mining concessions in his first term as premier, which has come to be dubbed “Coalgate.”

Auditors say the concessions were handed out too cheaply and in a process that lacked transparency — heaping more embarrassment on the main ruling Congress party and Singh in particular who was in charge of the coal ministry at the time.

Once widely admired as the architect of reforms in the 1990s that transformed the Indian economy, Singh now finds his latest legislative plans thwarted at every turn.

In the latest “monsoon” session which began on Aug. 8, lawmakers spent just 25 out of a possible 120 hours considering legislation, according to PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based independent study group.

Only four bills were cleared by both houses of parliament, despite as many as 30 being listed for consideration on issues such as pensions, land acquisition, tax reform and corruption.

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