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3 Bills cleared in RS, 2 introduced in LS amid din; Opp asks govt why rush through

The Essential Defence Services Bill, introduced by Bhatt in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, sparked heated debate, with Opposition members questioning why it had been tabled in such a rushed manner.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: August 6, 2021 7:55:05 am
Rajnath Singh in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. (PTI)

Three Bills were passed in Rajya on Thursday amid protests by Opposition members over Pegasus spyware, the farm laws and alleged rape and murder of a minor Dalit girl.

The Constitution (Schedule Tribes) Order Amendment Bill 2021 introduced by Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda, The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 moved by MoS Defence Ajay Bhatt were passed even as the Upper House saw repeated adjournments.

The Essential Defence Services Bill, introduced by Bhatt in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, sparked heated debate, with Opposition members questioning why it had been tabled in such a rushed manner.

The Bill is aimed at preventing staff of government-owned ordnance factories from going on strike. The government has said that the Bill will ensure uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to armed forces for defence preparedness and national security.

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the government has been breaking “many precedents” and the Bill had been rushed in Parliament, whereas it should have been referred to a standing committee because it involved de-nationalisation of ordnance factories.

BJD MP Sujeet Kumar, YSRCP MP Ayodhya Rami and AIADMK MP M Thambidurai supported the Bill saying it was important for national security, while DMK MP M Shanmugam asked why such a Bill “has been brought”.

The debate became heated after several Opposition members said they were not being allowed to discuss issues in detail in Parliament.

TMC MP Sukhendu Shekhar Ray raised a point of order that Article 105 sub article 1 of the Constitution says there should be freedom of speech within Parliament. To which Deputy Chairman Harivansh said that Rule 110 says that discussion in Parliament should be limited to the Bill being tabled.

“If the aim of the Bill is to ensure national security, then why are people of the country being snooped on and why is Pegasus being used to enter people’s bedrooms?” said NCP MP Fauzia Khan.

Binoy Viswam of CPI said, “How can workers be against national security? What right does the government have to stop their right to strike? And what about Pegasus?”

Responding to the MPs, Defence Minister Singh said, “There no longer seems to be the possibility of a peaceful protest. Corporatising of army ordnance factories was thought of to improve autonomy as well as services. I want to assure the members that the Bill will in no way affect the service conditions of the ordnance employees… We have spoken to employees’ unions before bringing the Bill and it will only be applicable when it is invoked.”

Sources in the defence ministry said that corporatisation of OFB, which has been done to improve its competitiveness and efficiency, will not impact autonomy of ordnance factories. The Bill “does not curb the right of peaceful protest”, sources said.

“Until this rule is invoked,” if the circumstances arise, workers have all the rights, an official said. Mere passing of the Bill does not mean the rules will be invoked automatically. The official added that “unless there are massive disruptions, this rule won’t be invoked”.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice in the morning as Opposition MPs continued protesting and sloganeering. Congress MP P Chidambaram objected to ministers not being present for laying of official listed papers. MoS for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan moved to lay the papers on behalf of ministers who were not present.

Harivansh said the minister was allowed to lay papers on behalf of other ministers considering the Covid-19 situation.

He also said that Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu is seized of a complaint filed by a woman security staffer, who was injured on August 4 while six Opposition MPs who were suspended for a day for unruly behaviour attempted to enter Rajya Sabha. The Opposition began sloganeering and Question Hour was adjourned. The House met again for a few minutes at 12.30 pm and was adjourned till 2 pm.

Regarding the events in Parliament, Minister Piyush Goyal said, “…The members tried to force their way in and injured a security personnel who had to be taken to a clinic. I thought the members would apologise today… instead they have been circulating a clipped version of the video.”

Goyal added that while everyone has a right to protest, “the sanctity of the Upper House and the chair must be maintained… I once again appeal to Opposition members to partake in the debates, and through these discussions I am sure a solution will emerge.”

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