The issue of demonetisation of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes continued to rock the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday virtually washing out its proceedings, even as the government dared the Opposition to resume discussion on the issue rather than disrupting the House. Both the Zero Hour and the Question Hour were disrupted as members of the Treasury and Opposition benches resorted to sloganeering over the issue leading Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the proceedings till noon. Similar scenes were witnessed at noon forcing Chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House again till 1400 hours.
While Congress wanted to know who was responsible for the death of at least 84 persons in hardships caused due to the “unplanned” demonetisation, other opposition parties including SP and BSP wanted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise for putting the common man to hardship.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blamed the Opposition for using the tactics of disruption on a daily basis rather than resuming the discussion started on the first day of the winter session on November 16 and which is yet to conclude.
The government, he said, had not wasted even a minute to agree to a debate on the issue. It also agreed to the rule under which the debate is to be conducted as well as to the demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in it, Jaitley said.
But instead of participating and concluding the debate, the Opposition has been using the Zero Hour to raise the issue for “getting footage on TV rather than listening to substantive facts on the issue. … If the Opposition has the guts, the debate should resume,” the Leader of the House said.
Immediately thereafter, BJP members started raisingslogans like “himmat hai to charcha karo (If you have guts, discuss the matter).”
Jaitley also raised a point of order saying how can the Chair allow an issue on which substantial portion of debate has happened, to be raised during Zero Hour again.
Kurien agreed with the Leader of the House and asked the Opposition benches if they were ready for a discussion.
As Treasury benches continued to shout slogans seeking resumption of discussion, the Opposition members raised slogans daring Modi to come to the House and listen to the debate. As the din continued, Kurien adjourned the proceedings till noon.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said 84 persons have died in hardships caused due to the demonetisation issue in last one month.
Azad said the list includes 40 persons in 15 states dying standing in queues in front of banks and ATMs in the last one month and five bank employees in four states losing their lives due to stress. People have committed suicide as they could not arrange for currency for their daughters’ wedding, he said.
“Who is responsible for the death of 84 persons,” he asked and added that “the (demonetisation) scheme was brought without planning and preparation” that has led to severe cash shortage as alternate currency was not available.
As people scrambled to lay hand on valid currency, large scale job losses have been reported as a fallout of demonetisation, the senior Congress leader said.
Azad said Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia on Tuesday stated that all the currency that was demonetised was supposed to come back to the formal banking system, implying there was no blackmoney or unaccounted wealth in the economy.
“If all money was to come back, why was this high-handed decision taken,” he asked.
Also, RBI has for the last 10 days stopped giving out deposits and exchange of old and debunked currency, he said wanting to know the reason why the central bank has stopped the practice.
RBI, he said, should provide an update on the issue every day.
Azad also cited a reply to a question in Rajya Sabha earlier this week where it was stated that banks have enough currency. If that is so, why are their queues in front of banks and ATMs, he asked.
“Please don’t play with the sentiments of the people by making emotional statements,” he said referring the emotional speeches made by Modi on the demonetisation issue.
Naresh Agarwal (SP) said Prime Minister should apologise for the hardships caused to the people, come to House to listen and reply to the debate on demonetisation.
Mayawati (BSP) said Modi had said that the hardships would be resolved in 50 days but it has been one month and there is no end to the sufferings.
Entire opposition is willing to listen to the Prime Minister provided that he comes to the House, she said, adding that Modi should apologise for the hardships caused.
Kurien then asked how can opposition discuss the issue without resuming the debate. He also directed the BJP members not to raise slogans. But with neither side relenting, he adjourned the proceedings till noon.
When the House reassembled at noon, Chairman Hamid Ansari took up the Question Hour but Opposition members were on their feet, with many of them speaking at the same time leading to uproar.
As he called the first Question to be taken up and asked Vivek Tankha (Cong) to ask his supplementaries, members of Congress, TMC, Left, BSP and SP were on their feet raising issues together.
Congress members said that for 18 days, the Prime Minister has not come or heard them as they wanted to discuss the issue of demonetisation.
TMC members also demanded the Prime Minister’s apology over his remarks against the Opposition for raising the demonetisation issue.
At one point, Satyavrat Chaturvedi (Cong), Satish Misra (BSP), Tapan Sen (CPI-M), Naresh Agrawal (SP) and TMC members were speaking together.
Soon TMC and Congress members stood in the aisle and started raising slogans and then trooped into the Well. Some members of treasury benches also raised slogans in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Chairman Hamid Ansari then adjourned the House till 1400 hours.