Proceedings in the Rajya Sabha were washed out today due to relentless protests by the opposition members over vacancies in the commissions for SCs, STs, backward classes and minorities.
The government sought to address the concerns by saying the process was underway for filling up these vacancies but the parties like the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the JD(U) and the BSP kept demanding a commitment that it will be done within a week.
The House was repeatedly adjourned and finally for the day at 3.10 pm as the opposition parties insisted on an immediate discussion on the issue.
The Chair, however, said that their notices for a discussion under an Adjournment Motion have been disallowed.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, who spoke amid the din, said the delay in appointments to the statutory commissions was due to the Model Code enforced because of elections in five states recently.
He said the process of filling up the vacancies has started and the Chairmen for the SC Commission and the Safai Karamchari Ayog have been appointed.
He said the process to fill up other vacancies was also underway and would be completed soon. He added that it was not for the first time that there have been delays in filling up such vacancies.
“The appointments will be made and many such appointments have already been made. The delay was due to the enforcement of Model Code following assembly elections in five states,” Gehlot said.
He said that in 2007 and 2010, when Congress-led government was in power, there was a delay of three and five months, respectively, in filling up such vacancies.
The SC Commission chairmanship fell vacant on October 31 last year, the minister said.
The unrelenting opposition members, however, did not allow the Minister to speak despite repeated requests by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien.
While the House saw three adjournments during pre-lunch, including two in the Question Hour, there were two more adjournments post lunch after which it was finally adjourned for the day at 3.10 pm.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the issue was very important and required a discussion as members have already given notices.
He sought to know whether the government would commit itself to appoint the chairmen and members in all the commissions within a week and whether an immediate discussion on the issue is allowed or not.
“Never has it happened in the country that all three commissions are headless and they are without members too. The SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities account for 80 to 85 per cent of total population and the various commissions implement the schemes for their welfare and upliftment.
“If commissions are not formed for welfare of 85 per cent population, then who is the government representing? The leadership of the ruling party, both at the level of states and the Centre, are not interested in upliftment of SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities. This shows how much the BJP government cares for these classes,” Azad said.
Amid the din, Naidu said the backward class commission chairman has welcomed the changes made and it was a political strategy of the opposition to convey a “wrong impression” to the people. “All commissions are functioning. Process of filling up vacancies is on. They will be filled up,” he said.
With the opposition members continuing to shout slogans from the Well, Kurien adjourned the proceedings of the House for 10 minutes.
When it reassembled, opposition members were up on their feet again but Kurien said an important matter was raised and he knew that other members too wanted to speak but had allowed the minister to clarify after two members had spoken.
“I know the rules. I did not prevent (anyone from speaking). After the Minister’s explanation some of your apprehensions will get over,” he said. “Hon’ble minister has said all vacancies will be immediately filled up.”
At this Naidu said, “vacancies will be filled up in due couse of time.” He said the allegations against the government questioning its intention will not be allowed.
Kurien then allowed Sharad Yadav (JD-U), who too had given a rule 267 notice, to speak but this time, the BJP members from the treasury benches started raising slogans.
This prompted the opposition members to troop into the Well again.
Just as they entered the Well, a visiting Namibian parliamentary delegation took seat in the special gallery.
Kurien stopped the slogan-shouting members and then read out a statement welcoming the delegation, even as the opposition members remained in the Well.
As he finished the statement, slogan-shouting began again, forcing him to adjourn the House till noon.
The House witnessed similar scenes during Question Hour again, as protersting Opposition MPs did not pay heed to the appeals by Chairman Hamid Ansari to restore order, forcing him to adjourn the proceedings till 1230 hours.
When the House reassembled, noisy scenes were again witnessed. JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav was heard saying it was very important that a discussion should be held.
Ansari again requested the agitated members that they should allow the Question Hour to proceed. “Don’t make fun of the procedures,” an anguished Chairman said.
However, opposition members insisted that the House wanted a discussion on the matter.
Members of the opposition parties then rushed to the Well of the House, shouting slogans like “Jumlebaazi nahi chalegi” (hollow statements will not do).
Amidst the din, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said there were elections to 5 states and appointments could not have been made then. He said the government was willing to provide details.
As the din continued and no solution appeared in sight, Ansari adjourned the House till 1400 hours.
Sharad Yadav, who sought to raise the issue of vacancies in teaching for reserved classes, said, “It is a very serious issue. In 70 years, I want to tell you what is the state of affairs in the country.”
He said the posts for reserved classes in various educational institutions were far less than the quota.
He raised the issues of Delhi University, JNU and other institutions where the teachers were far less than required.
While Yadav was citing figures to buttress his point, Congress members trooped into the Well raising slogans.
Chairman Hamid Ansari’s pleas for allowing the Question Hour to function fell on deaf ears.
Congress members raised slogans like “jumlebaazi nahin chalegi”, while the treasury benches also raised slogans to counter the opposition uproar.