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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Parliament Budget session: Opp uproar over farm stir, Govt says ready to discuss inside, outside House

With a united Opposition raising slogans, staging walkouts, and trooping into the Well, both Houses saw multiple adjournments before they were finally adjourned for the day.

Written by Liz Mathew , Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: February 3, 2021 6:42:47 am
Opposition leaders raise slogans in Rajya Sabha. (Source: RSTV grab)

AS THE Opposition raised the issue of the ongoing farmers’ agitation over the new farm laws in Parliament – proceedings in both Houses were disrupted on Tuesday – the government asserted in Lok Sabha that it was ready to discuss “issues related to farmers inside and outside Parliament”.

With a united Opposition raising slogans, staging walkouts, and trooping into the Well, both Houses saw multiple adjournments before they were finally adjourned for the day.

Speaking during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, which began at 5 pm, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government was ready to discuss issues related to farmers both “inside and outside Parliament”. He said the government was waiting for the farmers’ proposal in order to resume discussions.

Tomar’s reply came after Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury claimed that 170 farmers had died during the ongoing protest. “Atrocities are being committed on farmers. Situation is similar to British rule,” he said.

Earlier, as soon as Lok Sabha met for the day, Opposition members, including from the Congress, DMK and TMC, trooped to the Well, raising slogans seeking the repeal of the “anti-farmer laws”.

“Today all of you seem to be in high spirits,” Speaker Om Birla said. Asking them to return to their seats, he said: “There’s a question on farmer welfare. You can ask questions. And please do this sloganeering outside the House.”

But the Opposition MPs continued to raise slogans — some of them were carrying banners too. SAD MP and former minister Harsimrat Kaur was seen standing with a placard urging the government to withdraw the “black laws”.

The House was then adjourned for about an hour. When Lok Sabha met again at 5 pm, the Opposition members continued to protest. But the Speaker allowed tabling of reports, before adjourning the proceedings to 7 pm. Amid the din, the House began discussing the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address, before it was finally adjourned for the day at 7.15 pm.

Criticising the Opposition, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said: “There is a tradition that no one disturbs the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address. It should not have happened.”

To which, Chowdhury was heard shouting: “See, how the Devil is quoting the scriptures.”

Rajya Sabha, too, saw multiple adjournments before it was adjourned for the day without transacting any business.

Sources in the Opposition said the parties have conveyed to both Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and the government to either allow a discussion on the farmers’ issue or extend the time allocated for the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address, which is to begin Wednesday, so that they can speak on the farmers’ stir. The leaders of various Opposition parties of Rajya Sabha held a meeting in Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad’s chamber to decide the strategy. Sources said the government appears to be amenable to the idea of extending the debate by three-four hours.

Earlier in the day, as the House met, Naidu appealed to members to “try and make the session more purposeful”. He spoke about the “unfortunate incidents” that had unfolded during the last session — the House witnessed unprecedented chaos during passage of the farm laws in September, leading to suspension of eight Opposition MPs — and said it is “binding on all of us to see to it that the House runs properly.”

With several Opposition members having given notices for suspension of all business to discuss the farmers’ agitation, Naidu said a “prolonged discussion of over 20 hours on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address… and also the General Budget would offer ample opportunities to raise and discuss a wide range of issues of public concern to which the government will respond.”

But as soon as he took up Zero Hour business, Opposition members stood up. Azad said he had given a notice under Rule 267 for suspension of Question Hour to take up the farmers’ issue. Similar notices had also been given by DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha, CPM’s Elamaram Kareem, CPI’s Binoy Viswam and BSP’s Ashok Siddharth.

Naidu said he understood the concern of the members and the need to resolve the issue, but rejected the notices saying they could participate in the debate on the Motion of Thanks and express their viewpoints.

The Opposition members remained firm on their demand for a discussion and staged a walkout. “The government is holding discussions with them (farmers). But the House is not aware of what is going on between the government and the kisan organisations. That is why this House should discuss at length the matter of national importance because it is concerning the annadata of the country,” Ray said before walking out.

Minutes after the Opposition members – the BSP too joined them – walked out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered the House. Ten minutes later, while the Question Hour was proceeding, the Opposition members re-entered the House and shouted slogans, leading to the first adjournment. As Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah watched, Opposition members led by AAP’s Sanjay Singh stood in the Well shouting slogans.

“We did not return to the House because the Prime Minister had come. In fact, we didn’t even know,” said RJD’s Jha. Sources said soon after the walkout, some of the leaders, including AAP’s Singh, felt that they should have been more aggressive. He and some others were critical of the silent walkout. This prompted the Opposition to return to the House, shouting slogans, which resulted in four adjournments.

Naidu said it was not fair that members who had walked out were staging a protest in the Well. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the Opposition was “disturbing” the House after having staged a walkout. “They don’t want to run the House. They want to disturb…This is not fair,” he said.— With Avishek G Dastidar, New Delhi

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