After witnessing heated arguments between members of the treasury and Opposition benches through the week, the Rajya Sabha saw some lighter moments on Friday. During the debate on a private member’s Bill providing for creation of a Central Himalayan States Development Council, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan gave a nearly hour-long reply, prompting senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh to interject that the minister was expected to give an “exhaustive reply, not an exhausting reply”.
Another Congress member Pramod Tiwari urged Harsh Vardhan to “give a homeopathic dose” as the “allopathic dose is quite a big one”. Harsh Vardhan, a doctor and a former health minister, responded, “I will go to homeopathy now and then to ayurveda.” As the MPs burst into laughter, Minister of State Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “Panga liya hai toh samhlo (face it now as you have made the challenge).”
After the hour-long reply, the minister said he was sorry he had to cut it short as the MPs had asked for a homeopathic dose. While Harsh Vardhan responded to each member’s concern in detail, Congress’s Rajeev Shukla said, “All of us have got tired with your reply. Please do not give more pain. Ab fatigue factor develop ho raha hai. Aapke jawab se ham santusht hain. Isliye ab jyada dukh mat dijiye.”
He also pointed out that it was the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that the health of members is taken care of. “If it goes on like this, half the members will faint,” he added. The minister said the points raised by the members should be given justice. At this, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said, “Justice is okay but over-justice is not needed.”
Dismissing the need for a council for Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh as demanded in the private member’s Bill by Congress member Pradeep Tamta, Harsh Vardhan said establishing a council was not a solution. The Bill was withdrawn. The government is planning a national policy for development of the Himalayan region, the minister said.
After concluding his reply, when the minister tried to read out a written statement, members as well as the Chair asked him to lay the statement on the floor of the House. Harsh Vardhan said he would do so if the members promised to read it at home. Earlier, Ramesh told Kurien in a lighter vein: “You are getting M Venkaiah Naidu’s skills now.” Kurien quipped, “He (Naidu) is going to be my Chairman. The Vice-President of India is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Naidu is the NDA’s Vice-Presidential candidate.